Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Physics department have done over the years.

Abstract: The hydrophobicity of a surface describes its ability to repel water and can be quantitatively defined by a higher contact angle between water droplets and the surface. Rough or micro-patterned surfaces can have increased hydrophobicity when compared to smooth surfaces. Laser ablation of metals is a precise method of creating micro-patterns on metal surfaces. Ablation in different gas environments further alters the material composition of the surface which can further impact the hydrophobicity. In this talk, I will present results on the hydrophobicity of metal surfaces ablated by a laser in different gas environments.

Phoebe Marcus-Porter (2020)

Abstract: The transition to turbulence occurs with the increase in complexity of velocity and flow of a liquid. This complexity is not well understood. One method of reaching turbulence in flow is the subcritical transition. This requires some finite perturbation resulting in the increase in complexity of flow in a laminar system. Using an automated system, I will be analyzing the impact of flow on the subcritical transition to turbulence using finite perturbations in the attempt to develop a deeper understanding of this transition to turbulence.

Bailey Wyatt (2020)

Abstract: As fireballs, more commonly known as shooting stars, fly through Earth’s atmosphere at breakneck speeds, they emit light that can be observed on our planet’s surface. Willamette’s D6 AllSky Survey is a camera system that probes the night’s sky for these events which can be further utilized for large-scale analysis such as determining flux rates. Flux rates depict the number of events that occur per unit time per unit area. Because one camera system can only observe <0.4% of Earth’s total sky area, amateur astronomers hold a significant role in fireball observations. Their observations provide a robust data sample size that can then be used to gain a deeper understanding of the flux rates and property distributions of fireballs. While complex multi-camera professional systems currently exist, there is need for more economic, accessible, and versatile systems. We will discuss the feasibility of our current observational setup and how it compares to more elaborate existing systems.

PJ Gibson (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Physics department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Using a Lock-in Amplifier to Detect a Calcium Absorption Signal - LaShae Smith (Thesis)
  • Hydrophobicity of metal surfaces ablated by a laser in different gas environments - Phoebe Marcus-Porter (Thesis)
  • Characterization of Silicon Nanoparticles in Solution - Devin Nakata (Thesis)
  • Nanoparticle Production in a Flow Cell Through Pulsed Laser Ablation - Lauren Stiles (Thesis)
  • Exploring trafficking and crosslinking functions of myosin VI within human retinal pigment epithelial cells - Teddy Rose (Thesis)
  • Experimental Studies and Stochastic Simulations of the Ensemble Behavior of Myosin VI Dimers - Diane Jung (Thesis)
  • Testing the Cosmological Standard Model by Analyzing Galaxy Motions - Ricky Oropeza (Thesis)
  • Using the Pantheon Supernova Type 1a Sample to Reconstruct the Expansion History of the Universe - Caspar Croft (Thesis)
  • Effects of Angular Velocity and Perturbation Amplitude on the Subcritical Transition to Turbulence in a Taylor-Couette System - Bailey Wyatt (Thesis)
  • Implementation of Method of Slices Symmetry Reduction on Kolmogorov-Like Flow with Periodic Boundary Coditions - (Thesis)
  • Characterizing Bouncing Droplet Interactions using Free-surface Synthetic Schlieren - Tyler Riddick (Thesis)
  • Determining Energy Distribution of Fireball Activity in the Earth's Atmosphere - Gary Locker (Thesis)


  • Period doubling in glow discharge tubes - Juan Marquez (Thesis)
  • Analysis of Quasi-Two Dimensional Kolmogorov Flows using the Method of Slices - Louis Bengston (Thesis)
  • Finite-Amplitude Perturbation Thresholds for Subcritical Transition in Taylor-Couette Flow - Katherine LaChasse (Thesis)
  • Bouncing Oil Droplets - A Macroscopic Model of Single-Particle Diffraction - Trent Jones (Thesis)
  • An Analysis of Fireballs from Willamette's D6 AllSky Survey - PJ Gibson (Thesis)
  • A table-top experiment to optimize magnetic resonance pulsing for laser guide-star applications - Lance Crafton (Thesis)
  • Examining the Rate of Expansion of the Universe Using the Galaxy Peculiar Velocity Covariance Matrix - Jill Peery (Thesis)
  • Examining the Rate of Expansion of the Universe Using the Galaxy Peculiar Velocity Covariance Matrix - William Kwako (Thesis)
  • Investigating the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe through the Correlation Function and Power Spectrum and Voids - Annie Wang (Thesis)
  • A More Direct Method for Calculating the Cosmic Velocity Correlation function from Peculiar Velocity Data - Sarah Peery (Thesis)
  • Determining if Myosin VI Dimers are Regulated by Intramolecular Strain - Marcus Weaver (Thesis)
  • Finding the Force Dependance of Myosin VI inside Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells - Jo Stensaas (Thesis)
  • Finding the Force Dependence of Myosin VI inside Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells - Cassie Logan (Thesis)


  • Characterization of calcium dispenser for magneto-optical trapping - Ottillia Ni (Thesis)
  • Hydrodynamic Tunneling as a Quantum Analog Experiment - Terae Jones (Thesis)
  • Calculating the Galaxy Peculiar Velocity Correlation Function - Michael Spetich (Thesis)
  • Kinetic Properties of multiple myosin VI monomers - Ellen Rumley (Thesis)
  • Analyzing the Radial Pulsation Modes of High-Amplitude Delta Scuti Stars - Stefan Kimura (Thesis)
  • Subcritical Transition to Turbulence in Taylor-Couette Flows - Brighton Sier (Thesis)
  • Increasing Laser Guide Star Fluorescence through Magnetic Resonant Pulsing - Adam Wright (Thesis)
  • A New Model for Analyzing Walking Myosin VI Dimers - Dusan Pekich (Thesis)
  • Kinetic modeling of motility for myosin VI and a mutant myosin VI associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - Kricia Ruano Espinoza (Thesis)
  • Surface Texturing and Microstructuring with a Picosecond Pulsed Laser - Ian Gilbert (Thesis)
  • The Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction in Complex 2D Vortex Flows - Kyler Vetter (Thesis)
  • Analysis of Non-Gaussian Regions of Peculiar Velocity Galaxy Distributions - Miles Smith (Thesis)
  • Ex Vivo Force Dependence of Myosin VI in the Nonspecific Phagosome Trafficking of ARPE-19 Cells - Theo Humphreys (Thesis)
  • Silver Nanoparticle Synthesis Using Laser Ablation - Dane Tippett (Thesis)
  • Photometry of Celestial Fireballs Using a Portable All-Sky Camera - Luke Russell (Thesis)
  • Pump-Probe Spectroscopy of Rubidium: an analysis of the hyperfine energy levels and Zeeman effect - Kelsey Walker (Thesis)


  • Ultracold Rubidium Absorption Images - Shelby Merrill (Thesis)
  • Are Ceilings Necessary for Sound Containment? - Janet Gallagher (Thesis)
  • Construction, Calibration, and Application of a Rhodamine Dye Laser - Donald Swen, Adam Wright (Thesis)
  • Photometry and Analysis of Earthbound Fireballs - Luke Russell (Thesis)
  • The Radius Ratio Dependence of the Primary Instability in the Taylor-Couette System - Andrew Lum (Thesis)
  • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy of Brass - Jaclyn Parnell (Thesis)
  • Investigating the Force-dependence of Myosin VI Activity by Applying an Electrophoretic Force on Actin - Brendan Blosser-McGinnis (Thesis)
  • Studies on the Gating of Myosin VI - Dylan Tooley (Thesis)
  • An Investigation of the Pulsation Modes of a Variable Star - Dane Miyata (Thesis)
  • Laser Ablation Studies in Brass - Jacqueline Remmel (Thesis)
  • Measurement and the Quantum Eraser - Johann Baptista (Thesis)
  • Investigating the Effect of the H246R Mutation on the Force Sensitivity and Gating of Myosin VI - Todd Denning (Thesis)
  • Controlling a Laser’s Frequency with a PI Controller - Ema Ikeda (Thesis)
  • Experimental Investigation of the Stability of Keplerian Disks - Ruvim Kondratyev (Thesis)
  • Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood: Perspectives on Essentialist Identities and Hybridity - Heather Buttram (Thesis)
  • The Early Modern Elegy: Conventions Echoed in Grief Rap - Natalie Clark (Thesis)
  • The "Good" in "Evil" - Peyton Wallace (Thesis)
  • A Fetus Dreams: Fear of Modernity in Interwar Japan through Yumeno Kyusaku's Dogura Magura - Mary Baker (Thesis)
  • Links, Knots, and Braids, Oh, My: An Examination of Extracurricular Opportunities in Mathematics in Japan and the US - Taylor Matsumura (Thesis)
  • Gu Long and his Martial Art Fictions - Xuerong Wang (Thesis)
  • Finding Meaning in Music: An Event-Related Brain Potential Study of the Semantics of Musical Intervals - Seth Eggleston (Presidential Scholarship)
  • Motherhoods, Masculinities, and Minorities: Gender and the Ogoni Environmental Movement of 1990 - Madison Rotter (Presidential Scholarship)
  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame de Paris - Becka Collier (Thesis)
  • Rhetorical Makeovers and the Normalization of Right-Wing Extremism: How France's National Front Has Transformed from a Radical Fringe Party into a Mainstream Political Contender in the 21st Century - Hana Hallahan (Thesis)
  • The Other: An Evolution Through Colonialism from Idealized Individual to Degenerate Creature - Christine Schilliger (Thesis)
  • Men's Discussion of Women's Purity: Themes in Tacitus and Juvenal - Rachel Dell (Poster)
  • Critiquing Said: Imaginative Geographies - Rea Maci (Poster)
  • Orient's Self-Agency - Malik Neha (Poster)


  • Observing the Effect of Quantum Weak Measurements on Single Photon Interference - Jade Aiona (Thesis)
  • Modelling Pulsating Stars: How Non-Linear Coupled Oscillators Can Help to Understand Modes of Stellar Pulsation - Joseph Clarke (Thesis)
  • Characterizing Pulsation Modes in Variable Stars Using a Multi-color Analysis - Austin Hagarty (Thesis)
  • Characterization and Optimization of a Rubidium Magneto-Optical Trap for the Photoassociation of Rubidium Calcium Dimers - Jonathan Hallsted (Thesis)
  • Calculating Variation in the Hubble Constant Using Galaxy Distance and Redshift Data - Wil Hamer (Thesis)
  • Using An All Sky Camera to Observe Fireballs and Characterize Near-Earth Meteoroids - Kyle McSwain (Thesis)
  • Observing Changes in Force Dependent Kinetics for Myosin VI in a Mutant Associated with Heart Disease - Jacob Shafi (Thesis)
  • Analysis of Phagosome Trafficking Data to Examine the Role of Myosin VI in Phagocytosis - Marika McCarthy (Thesis)
  • Optimization of Laser Parameters for Ablation and Surface Micro Structuring - Shelbi Jenkins (Thesis)
  • The Use of a Nanosecond Pulsed Laser to Conduct Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. - Peter Warrick (Thesis)


  • Optimizing ablation Parameters for an Ultrafast Pulsed Laser - Alycia Stuart (Independent Research)
  • Observation and Analysis of GSC 03144-00595: an understudied pulsating star - Ben Mow (Independent Research)
  • Single Photon Interference and Weak Quantum Measurement - Derek Crain (Independent Research)
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