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For the Love of Physics

With so many young couples crossing the quad this summer love, is definitely in the air--especially for Patrick Moro, who has decided that his passion for physics must remain unrequited no longer. In an effort to subdue this fickle science, Patrick joined one of twelve major research projects being conducted by the staff and students of Berea College. Working with Dr. Amer Lahamer for the duration of two months, Patrick has been dedicating his time and efforts toward the synthesis of a relatively new category of substance called half-metals.

Half-metals are being created in an effort to discover better conductors that are able to hold up at higher temperatures, an effort to which Patrick has dedicated himself with much enthusiasm. “You know you can actually see what you are trying to make and every time you struggle to make the sample you see how the metals cross and split. And you sometimes feel that you are there but you're not; you're just out of reach of your goal, it is just so exciting that you might get what you’re hoping to.”

Despite his enthusiasm and class experiences in relation to the subject matter, Patrick felt an initial apprehension about working in and around the physics lab, “Dealing with the machines is somewhat scary, the labels read flammable, gas under pressure, caution; the first time I stepped in I was scared….but now I don’t feel that anymore." Patrick credits his change of heart to both his experience and the confidence placed in him by his professor. “He trusts me to do the experiment and to do it right the first time.”

With confidence in hand, Patrick now completes each experiment in record time with the coolness of an expert, yet he still remembers his first independent experience with the experiment and those feelings of uncertainty. “Doing things on your own for the first time, things that you never imagined yourself doing without the supervision of a professor, it is like your safety net is missing.” Yet Patrick struggled past that fear with a better understanding of both the project and his own ability.

At the conclusion of the project Patrick was both relieved and disappointed to see his labor contract dissolve, relieved that he had accomplished so much and survived the dangers of the lab, and disappointed that he might not continue to experience the thrill of discovery. ”I felt challenged everyday because, though I went through the same procedures each day, it was all new each time because there was always the potential to create something that no one ever had; it was rewarding in a sense that I will never be able to express, ” says Patrick. With the project complete both Patrick and Professor Lahamer hope to have their results published in a peer review journal and have discussed extending the project into the fall semester in hopes that more thorough testing of the products be conducted.

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