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KU Physics Students Awarded grant from Kutztown University Trustee

Dr. Jolynn Haney awarded two physics students a grant for their research project.

From left to right: Dr. Justin Smoyer, Amanda Portoff, Dr. Jolynn Haney, Taylor Worthington and Dr. Paul V. Quinn gathered on July 25 in Boehm Science Building at Kutztown University for a grant presentation from Haney to the students.

July 26, 2018

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Amanda Portoff and Taylor Worthington, both physics majors about to start their senior year at Kutztown University (KU), are spending their summer in the lab working on a research project expected to continue into the fall semester. 

Portoff, of Milford, Conn., and Worthington, of Newtown, Pa., are working with Dr. Paul V. Quinn, associate professor of Physics, and Dr. Justin Smoyer, assistant professor of Physics, along with two KU BEARS students on a project exploring the efficiency of solar cells at extremely cold temperatures. KU BEARS, which stands for Kutztown University Bringing Experiences About Research in Summer, is a program designed to support faculty/student research pairs over the summer. The temperature-dependent data they are collecting and investigating is time intensive and in the preliminary findings stage.

Their research was bolstered by a grant from Dr. Jolynn Haney '84 M'93, a member of KU's Council of Trustees since 2016 who is currently serving as secretary.

"We hope to find out how to increase the efficiency of solar cells to be used in solar panels, making them more efficient," Portoff said. "This means a lot to us as we are both pursuing graduate school with plans to pursue Ph.D. programs. We probably would not have had this opportunity without Dr. Haney's support."

The grant will support the students with funding to be able to continue their research.

"I believe in supporting the students and appreciate their efforts. It is important to encourage them to do research. I have found the students at Kutztown to be true scholars. And physics students are naturally interested in research," Haney said.

Haney presented the grant to Portoff and Worthington during a working session on July 25 at the Boehm Science Building where the students showed her their research in progress.

"While faculty may have conceived the idea for this research project, the students are making the observations and controlling where the research goes," Quinn said.

Students demonstrated how they are utilizing a Cryostat with liquid nitrogen pumped in to bring a single cell's temperature down to 80 degrees Kelvin allowing them to observe the fundamental physics of the cell not always seen at higher temperatures. Then to complement that data, they showed Haney how they are then taking a bigger solar cell, and utilizing liquid nitrogen, testing it at room temperature with plans to compare the two data outputs.

"Every day we come up with new ideas on how this research will unfold. Research costs money and you need this kind of support to do it," Worthington said. "This research allows us to get hands-on experience to apply what we learn in class."