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BU, TSTC join to develop physics research center

Nov. 2, 1999

By VERONICA PERALEZ

Reporter

The Baylor physics department recently joined forces with Texas State Technical College to develop the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research, known as CASPER.

The new research center is the result of an idea conceived by Dr. Truell Hyde, associate professor of physics and director of CASPER, to give students in the field of astrophysics and space science the ultimate educational experience.

'Most students learn a lot from their classes, but they rarely get the opportunity to get hands-on experience,' Hyde said. 'It gives Baylor students the opportunity to be active in a real research environment.'

There are currently five Baylor undergraduates and five TSTC undergraduates working in CASPER.

'We work together in teams,' said Ted Cook, an Englewood, Colo., senior.

Cook is a physics major who began working in CASPER during his National Science Foundation fellowship this past summer.

'It's basically really good experience for applying to graduate schools,' Cook said.

Besides getting valuable lab experience, students working in CASPER also have the opportunity to gain other benefits.

Hyde said students have also been known to get their research papers published.

Some of the Baylor students currently working at CASPER are in the process of working on senior research projects. The yearlong project is part of a senior level research class, which is a requirement for a Baylor degree in physics.

Also working in CASPER are graduate students, faculty and staff from both Baylor and TSTC.

Hyde said TSTC provides technicians to assist the students as part of the partnership agreement signed in November 1998 between Baylor and TSTC.

TSTC is providing the two buildings which house two of the three groups that make up CASPER. Baylor's role in the partnership is to provide the funds needed for annual operation.

The CASPER research center functions from within the department of physics at Baylor and is made up of two major research groups.

The first group, the Astrophysics/Space Science Theory Group, researches a variety of topics including planetary research, dusty plasma research and super computers. It is located on the second floor of the Marrs McLean Science Building on the Baylor campus.

The Hypervelocity Impacts/Dusty Plasma Lab and the Space Science Lab make up the second research group, which focuses on research, engineering and design. One project under way is the creation of a system that measures the velocity of small particles.

Construction of the plasma lab building is set to begin on the TSTC campus in November and should be finished and ready for operation by next semester. The space science lab is also located on the TSTC campus and is open for use.

The CASPER research center was officially established as a university center in 1999, and is still in the beginning stages of development.

'Well, we're kind of just getting off the ground right now,' said Troy Henderson, a Huntsville senior.

Henderson recently became involved in CASPER because he is a physics major.

'We're trying to get the funding and personnel to make it [CASPER] a world class research lab,' he said. 'It's a wonderful opportunity, especially for undergraduates.'

According to Cook, the lab is not fully functional at this point and not ready for public use.

Any students interested in researching astrophysics or space science should contact Hyde in the Baylor physics department.