LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Quentin Hales and Tara Lyons, students of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, were among the 54 Penn State students awarded 2021 Erickson Discovery Grants from the Office of Undergraduate Education at University Park.
Hales and Lyons will each receive $3,500 to support their proposed research projects, to be conducted over the summer of 2021.
The grant enables students to complete research across disciplines by relieving the burden of living expenses and project costs, such as supplies, software, and travel. The proposal process includes conceptualization of a research topic, proposal writing, identification and implementation of research methods, and intended communication of results.
Hales, a junior physics major from Uniontown, will study “Numerical Solutions to the Forced Soliton Equation” under the supervision of Andrew Royston, assistant professor of physics, who helped to discover the equation with collaborators Ilarion V. Melnikov and Constantinos Papageorgakis. Their work was published in the American Physical Society.
Royston explained, “When ordinary charged particles like electrons are accelerated, they emit radiation, which is a type of electromagnetic wave. The forced soliton equation describes the radiation emitted by an accelerating soliton. A soliton is a hypothetical particle that exists in certain theoretical models used to approximate fundamental forces in nature.”
“As the forced soliton equation is relatively new, solutions have not been constructed before. Our work shows that such solutions are crucial to understanding certain particle creation processes in these theoretical models," said Royston.
Hales was awarded first place in the undergraduate research category of the Fall Learning Fair for his work on this project, and he was invited to participate in the second-annual summer mentorship program offered by Fayette LaunchBox powered by Penn State.
Hales and Royston intend to publish their work within the next year.
Lyons, a junior forensic science major from West Newton, Pennsylvania, will study “Theoretical Studies of Metallic Clusters on Nanographene for Future Materials” under the supervision of Julio Palma, assistant professor of chemistry.
“Our research involves nanotechnology, which can serve to develop new energy sources, efficient and robust solar panels, and new catalysts for complicated chemical reactions,” she said. “The study focuses on the theoretical and computational analysis of metal clusters, like gold or platinum, on nanographene structures.”
Lyons plans to add a minor in chemistry and is considering graduate studies. She hopes to pursue a career in drug chemistry.
“The funds from the Erickson Grant will allow me to focus on my research by providing financial support that I would have otherwise needed to seek myself,” she said. “Receiving this award has reinforced my passion for science and scholarly research.”