Acadia Student Nabs Atlantic Physics Award


Dan Webber

Acadia University student Dan Webber has won the Best Talk category of the 2011 Atlantic Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Conference (AUPAC) recently held at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia with a presentation on how he improved the use of a scanning electron microscope.

“Out of the 25 or so talks given at this year’s conference I did not expect mine to place, let alone come first,” said Webber, who is in his fourth-year of study in honours Physics. “It felt great to bring the prestige to Acadia and to our Physic’s Department.”

Supported through the Atlantic Provinces Council of the Sciences (APICS), AUPAC grants undergraduate physicists the opportunity to see current research being performed in the region, and present on research they may be pursuing for their undergraduate thesis. The student talks are judged based on five key attributes:

  • Abstract – Statement of problem, objectives, principal findings
  • Presentation - Clarity, visual aids, organization
  • Scientific merit – Experimental design, innovative approach, and interpretation of data
  • Overall knowledge and response to questions
  • Demonstrated potential to pursue graduate studies and research

Webber’s presentation, “Development and Characterization of a Near-IR Cathodoluminescence Detector” saw him design, construct, and test a detector for use on Acadia University’s Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). He looked at aspects of electron microscopy, computer programming, electronic circuits, drafting, physical construction, and a fundamental understanding of Cathodoluminescence, the physical process that Acadia’s detector measures.

In addition to a small cash prize, Webber was presented with a letter of recommendation from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

The Chester Basin, NS native says his decision to attend Acadia was an easy one. “Acadia consistently ranks in the top three in the undergraduate category in Maclean’s magazine rankings issue. Coupled with the rural location and close proximity to my hometown; it was a no-brainer.”

He says he is thankful for the personal attention he has received at Acadia.

“Unlike other schools, where the classes are so large the student becomes a number, in the Acadia Physics Department they treat you as an eager-to-learn student with a name,” he says. “My co-supervisors, Michael Robertson and Peter Williams, and department head, Bryan Latta, have been very supportive in both an academic and personal role. Their guidance inside and outside the classroom has deeply impacted my continuing interest in physics.”

Upon graduation, Webber plans to pursue graduate studies in physics, in particular materials science.

Two other Acadia students received honourable mentions at the conference: Matthew LeBlanc, A New Strategy for the Measurement of the Top Quark Pair Production Cross-Section in the ATLAS Detector and Graham Reid, Equations for Phase Shift Ring Down Spectroscopy.

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