Cluster 4: The Physics of Waves

Waves are prevalent in nature so understanding the physics of waves is important. It enables a description of many different types of physical phenomena. For example, the probability density waves made by electrons confined within a “box” have striking similarities to the standing waves made by a plucked guitar string. We will explore the physics of wave phenomena in these two seemingly different regimes and learn about the implications that such physics has on new technology and music. By being exposed to cutting edge research and engaging in hands-on experiments, students will learn about wave phenomena in atomically thin materials such as graphene and about mechanical waves, which are responsible for music.

Prerequisite: Students must have completed Chemistry and Trigonometry.

Preference: Completion of Physics.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses:

Waves at the Nanoscale

Instructor: Dr. Jairo Velasco Jr. (Physics Department)

The focus of this course is to introduce the fundamentals of graphene and highlight wave phenomena in this atomically thin sheet of carbon atoms. Lectures will discuss the exotic and useful electrical and mechanical properties that graphene hosts. These properties have poised graphene as an exciting platform for discovering new physics and developing novel technological applications. An emphasis will be made on the experimental tools that enable investigation of graphene and its alluring physical properties. Field trips to state-of-the-art labs, hands-on experiments, and invited guest lectures from researchers in the field will provide direct insight into cutting edge graphene related research.

Students will also carry out a miniproject, in which they investigate the application of graphene to address real-life problems such as energy storage, DNA sequencing, new biomedicine schemes, next generation electronics and many more. 

Vibrations Surround Us: The Physics of Music

Instructor: Dr. Stephanie Bailey (Physics Department)

The study of music, using the tools, ideas, and methodology of physics, is a fruitful venture, and our understanding and appreciation of each can magnify the other. While physics is not normally characterized as an "art", it does nonetheless require the exercise of human imagination and creativity. And while music is not normally characterized as a “science,” it might be possible, in the hands of an abstract and mathematically-minded composer, to see music as something akin to science.

The study of music from a physics perspective can enrich your appreciation of music. At the heart of music is the wave, an energy-carrying disturbance that travels through particles in a given medium. You will learn how to understand music in this new and exciting way. You will come to understand many of the underlying scientific principles of music such as resonance, loudness, beats, interference, pitch, harmonics, response of the human ear, the physical function and operation of various musical instruments, to name a few. You will see amazing demonstrations such as beautiful patterns of sand (Chlandi figures) formed on metal plates as a result of standing waves and the Ruben's Tube, a classic physics experiment involving sound, a tube of propane and fire. You will work in small groups to design and develop your own musical instrument using only recyclables and perform a song on this instrument. If you play a musical instrument, bring it this summer if you can!

Transferable Skills: Tools for Success

It may or may not surprise you that being a university researcher requires a whole host of skills outside of the specific scientific knowledge required of your chosen discipline or specialty. It requires communication skills such as the ability to present your work in writing and orally. It requires competencies in the realm of information technology including the ability to find and judge (the validity of) information and use a variety of hardware and software tools (e.g. spreadsheets, databases, statistics software, other data manipulation tools). It requires all of those skills to effectively conduct research such as data collection, analysis and interpretation, critical thinking and problem solving as well as the ability to conduct laboratory and/or field work. And, of course, a baseline competency in English, science, mathematics and computers is critical. 

The governing mission of the UCSC COSMOS Transferable Skills course is to promote students’ future academic (and professional) success through the exploration and development of transferable skills: i.e. those competencies that students develop while in school which facilitate academic achievement, the eventual transition into the work-force and which are applicable in many other life situations.