KU News Release

April 1, 2011
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, 785-864-8858

Undergraduate research: Training the body and mind

KU sophomore Juliet Remmers is learning that dance and high-energy physics research thrive on similar skills — perseverance, attention to detail and a drive for perfection.

A dance major from Lawrence, Remmers received a $2,000 Undergraduate Research Award in 2010 to support her work with David Besson, professor of physics and astronomy. Remmers is designing a radio antenna that would help sense neutrinos — elementary particles that travel near the speed of light — of unprecedented energy.

Undergraduate Research Awards support original, independent research by undergraduates enrolled on the Lawrence campus. The University Honors Program administers the awards with funds from the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Physics theory states that such super-high-energy neutrinos are sent to Earth by magnificent explosions of stars in other galaxies. The neutrinos carry a message of how the stars explode. If the particles occasionally collide with matter here on Earth, they may broadcast that message for anyone who is listening.

Remmers' antenna is meant to detect radio waves in the debris created when a high-energy neutrino hits a water molecule in Antarctic ice. The collision sends out a spray of radio waves. Antennas spread over a vast and largely radio-silent expanse in Antarctica can pick out these small signals. Fields of Antarctic ice provide the best chance on Earth to tune to the neutrinos' radio program.

"If the performance of her antenna turns out to be as good as we hope, almost certainly we'll deploy one of those antennas in the ice," Besson said.

Remmers has worked in Besson's lab since a high school guidance counselor told her of an internship opportunity. She applied, interviewed with two researchers and soon found herself working in the lab.

To develop her broad interests by doing undergraduate research, Remmers said she simply took advantage of an opportunity.

"And anybody can do that," she added. "There are lots of opportunities for whatever you want to do."

Related: KU announces 48 Undergraduate Research Award winners for spring 2011

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

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