STEVENS POINT — Starting next week, two University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students will conduct research in a setting few undergrads have a chance to access.
Jessica Nordstrom, of Hibbing, Minn., and Julia Weber, of Eagle River, will accompany UWSP chemistry professor Michael Zach to Argonne National Laboratory. Located just outside Chicago, Argonne is one of the world’s top research labs for nanotechnology, Zach’s specialty. Nanotechnology is working with matter at microscopic sizes.
There, the trio will spend two weeks researching ultrananocrystalline diamond for uses as electrodes and insulators.
The research will be conducted in a clean room, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct. Few university students have the chance to work in such a room. They also will be wearing full-body suits to make sure no skin cells contaminate the work, a level of precaution they don’t get at UWSP.
The whole time, they will be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s best scientists.
“All the machines they have there, we don’t have an option to use here,” said Nordstrom, a senior in biology with a chemistry minor. “From a professional standpoint, we’ll see how to do research.”
The students have this opportunity because of Zach’s success as a chemist. As a guest faculty researcher at Argonne, he has the opportunity to write proposals for experiments at the laboratory, and if his peers deem it worthy, he can conduct his research.
Bringing students is a benefit, both because of the experience they get and the help they provide. Zach has taken multiple trips to the lab since he came to UWSP in 2005.
“These are students that have done a couple of semesters here and have shown a real aptitude for it,” said Zach, who pays the students with money from a National Science Foundation grant. “Few undergraduates in the state get a chance like this.”