Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Physics Lab Tour at The University of Arkansas

Ph.D. candidate Robert Sleezer

                                                                                                      The closest most of us will ever get to the inside of a physics research lab is by watching episodes of the ├╝ber-popular “Big Bang Theory.”  Real life Ph.D. candidate Robert Sleezer was kind enough to show me around the University of Arkansas physics lab where he spends the better part of his days. Sleezer works in Greg Salamo’s research group, which “does an awful lot of things,” he said. The group of about 20 people conducts research that includes optics work (“lasers and crap,”) electron microscopy, growth of crystals and nanomaterials, and biological research.

   One monstrous piece of equipment was located in a clean room labeled “Molecular Beam Epitaxy.” Everyone had to put on lab coats, hair nets, and booties upon entry. The room held a vacuum chamber that contains fewer “atoms per volume than in outer space,” explained Sleezer. The machinery allows the operator to build “layer cake” out of crystals, or build semiconductors using very pure elements with ridiculous precision. The materials are assembled, quite literally, “one atomic layer at a time,” said Sleezer. The highly customized materials that can be made using this technology may be worthy of publication, or they could even be of potential interest to companies that are looking for the next breakthrough in electronics. And according to the science-minded Sleezer, it is often preferential to publish a paper on an exciting new product rather than sell the technology to a company.
   One of the lab’s main goals includes trying to find materials “other than silicone” to make parts for computers. There are limitations of silicone-based parts that make it challenging to build electronic components smaller, faster, and that use less energy.
   The five-million-dollar (give or take a few dollars) Titan transmission electron microscope (part of the University of Arkansas Electron Optics Facility supported by the National Science Foundation) that Sleezer uses looks a bit like a large periscope from the future. This microscope is so sensitive that a special “minimally-vibrating” building was constructed on the campus to house it. The scope can be used to take pictures of atoms “using the wave nature of electrons,” said Sleezer. Photos of the incredibly tiny crystal structures can be very helpful in determining if the team is on to a hot new product, or not.
   When asked if he likes his work, Sleezer replied, “Who wouldn’t?”
Graduate students Chen Li, P.C. Grant, and Sleezer

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Clockwise from top left: Nexxus Humectress hair conditioner, Michael Kors perfume, MAC Complete Comfort Cream, Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium Foaming Body Scrub, Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium Handcrafted Soap, C.O. Bigelow's "My Favorite Night Balm," MAC Brush #208, Pentel ENERGEL 0.7 mm Pen, The Body Shop Shimmer Body Butter.

    If you were going to be stranded on an island for an indefinite amount of time, and you could only take one item with you, what would it be? Since this ridiculous scenario will never happen to you or me, I'd like to share a handful of my very favorite products I have discovered during the past decade.

   Nexxus Humectress hair conditioner - I have not found another conditioner that makes my hair feel softer. It is a bit pricey, but worth it. I am sad to say that another conditioner I love, "Brazil Nut" by The Body Shop, is apparently not on the market anymore. "Brazil Nut" smelled divine!

   Michael Kors perfume - I was working on my Master's degree at the University of Arkansas when a young woman walked past me and I caught her scent in the air. It smelled GOOD, like a strong succulent gardenia. I stopped her and asked her what she was wearing, and she smiled very prettily and said "Michael Kors!"

   MAC Complete Comfort Creme - This is a new face conditioner I am enjoying. It is thick, it feels good, and it smells good. I love MAC.

   Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium Foaming Body Scrub and Soaps - I have been to this charming little shop in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There are loaves of wonderful smelling hand-made soap throughout the store. The sales girl was delightful as she cut off  bars and wrapped up all the soaps I wanted. My favorites scents are Root, Badedas, Spearmint, and Rose. The Foaming Body Scrub is thick and superb. Order from their website and Arkansas residents get free shipping! http://www.bathhousesoap.com/

   Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Coconut Rum - Okay, so this isn't a beauty or health product, but it is delicious. My favorite nightcap.

   C.O. Bigelow's "My Favorite Night Balm" -  You cannot have too many tubes of chapstick or lip balm. It is a simple truth. I keep them in my desk, in my purse, and by my bed. This balm is a good one. It can be purchased at Bath and Body Works.

   MAC brush #208 - If you wear eyeliner and have not yet discovered the art of painting your own lids, I am pleased to recommend this small, agile, angled brush from MAC. I have tried small brushes from several high-end retailers, and this one is the best.

   Pentel ENERGEL 0.7 mm pen - The pen is mightier than the sword, and no pen is mightier than this sleek, stylish and smooth-gliding stylus.

   The Body Shop Body Butter - I first learned about The Body Shop when I was a young teenager reading Seventeen magazine. Their Body Butters have been a long-time favorite of mine. Olive is my top pick, and I like this Shimmer Coconut version a lot, too. 

   While it is probable that you could live on the hypothetical  island and survive without any of these products, the real question is, why would you want to?