A West Virginia University graduate student in physics will get a chance to pick the minds of some of the worlds leading scientists this summer.
p. Chris Compton is among more than 500 young researchers from around the world selected to attend the 54th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students June 27-July 2 in Lindau, Germany.
Its a great chance to talk with people who have received the top prize in their professions,said Compton, 26, son of Lester and Cathy Compton of Millbrook, Ala.It will be nice to get their viewpoints on things and see how they work.
Since 1951, Nobel laureates in chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine have annually convened in Lindau to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers from around the world. The meetings rotate by discipline each year, and this years event will focus on physics.
Compton is one of 23 participants chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy and 58 students representing the United States. The National Science Foundation and Oak Ridge Associated Universities are sponsoring the other American participants.
The primary purpose of the meeting is to allow participantsmost of whom are studentsto benefit from informal interaction with the Nobel Prize winners. After lecturing on topics related to physics during morning sessions, laureates will preside over informal roundtable sessions exclusively for students in the afternoons. During lunches and dinners, laureates will join participants at local restaurants for additional informal discussions.
Various social events are also on the agenda, including an evening dinner gala, to allow participants to meet attendees from other countries. They will also do some sightseeing in Lindau, a medieval island city rich in western European culture and situated at the common border of Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
Comptons research is in the area of plasma physics, which is the study of matter at extremely high temperatures.
Specifically, he is researching how the outer atmosphere of the sun (1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit) gets so much hotter than the surface of the sun (9,000 degrees Fahrenheit). In a laboratory in WVU s Hodges Hall, he creates waves in a plasma and is studying the effects of the waves on the plasma. The goal is to see if the waves can heat the plasma in the same way the outer atmosphere of the sun gets hot.
Compton became interested in physics while a student at Auburn University, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in geology and physics.
You were required to take physics courses as part of the geology program,he said.The more physics courses I took, the more I realized that the parts of geology I liked were the physical partsthe fundamental aspects that are causing geophysical processes to happenrather than the processes themselves.
Then I got involved in lab research and really liked it,he added.
Compton decided to come to WVU after hearing about the innovative plasma physics research being conducted by Earl Scime, chairman of the Department of Physics. These singers of Scimes praises included Ed Thomas, Comptons undergraduate adviser at Auburn, and WVU Ph.D. graduate Bill Amatucci, a physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory where Compton worked after graduation.
Dr. Scime seemed like a great guy to work with, so I came to study under him,he said.
It was Scime who nominated Compton for the Lindau gathering.
Its a great experience,Scime said.Hes been drudging through classes the past two years, and I thought it would be good for him to meet a wide range of people who are working scientists, are at the forefront of their disciplines and are great examples of how far a scientific career can take a young man.
After completing his graduate degree, Compton said he wants to continue his plasma research.
A Web site ( http://www.orau.gov/lindau2004/ ) has been created to include daily information while students are attending the meeting. Each day, photos and a summary of events will be posted.
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, or ORISE , is administering the Web site and travel arrangements for all participants. ORISE managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universitiesis a DOE facility focusing on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness, and educate the next generation of scientists.