Michael Bell, a Millsaps junior majoring in physics and mathematics, will spend his summer working with some of the finest theoretical physicists in the world at The National Institute for Sub-atomic Physics in Amsterdam.
Michael Bell (right) and Dr. Shadow Robinson
He was chosen to participate in a prestigious National Science Foundation International Research Experience for Undergraduates during the summer of 2013. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates program supports participation by undergraduate students in areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation.
Bell, who is from Luling, La., submitted his application for the University of Florida's International Research Experience for Undergraduates last December.
"Roughly two and a half months after submitting the application to the University of Florida, I was asked to interview via Skype," said Bell. "Within 24 hours I had completed the interview and within 48 hours I was sent a congratulatory e-mail offering me the position to study in Amsterdam. I was beside myself!"
Participation in the program includes a $4,800 stipend, travel health insurance, and an allowance for round trip travel from the University of Florida in Gainesville to the host institution in Amsterdam.
Bell will work on a project entitled "Analyzing Neutron Stars with Advanced Gravitational Wave Detectors." Using Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, he will theoretically model subtle effects, propagating across vast expanses of space and time, that arise from the remains of massive stars after they have suffered a rapid collapse and violent explosion known as a supernova.
Bell said he looks forward to applying the mathematical techniques he has learned to theoretical research in gravitational physics.
"I feel privileged to have earned the opportunity to work alongside experts in the field as an undergraduate and look forward to graduate study in physical cosmology. Beyond research I'm excited to check traveling to and around Europe off my bucket list. I intend to visit a number of historic cities while there and travel to CERN to observe the Large Hadron Collider if possible."
Bell is independently studying general relativity with Dr. Shadow Robinson, associate professor of physics at Millsaps. To prepare for the summer, Bell has been asked to study new mathematical material such as Fourier analysis and Bayesian statistics as well as learn a number of scientific programming languages including MATLAB, C, and Python.
Robinson, who is chair of the Physics Department at Millsaps, said he encourages students to find opportunities outside of the campus. "This is a remarkable opportunity for Michael," he said.
"The physics he will be researching is related to material we covered in several courses," Robinson said. "In particular it is discussed briefly in my non-majors course Introductory Astronomy and again more mathematically in my junior and senior Astrophysics course. Michael has taken both courses. Michael and I also did an independent study course on tensors last semester, which is the mathematical prerequisite for studying Einstein's theory of General Relativity."
Bell is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Mu Epsilon, the Physics Club, the Math Club and the Millsaps International Buddy System. He is a residence hall director, mathematics tutor, and physics tutor. He served as second vice president for the Student Body Association in 2012 and was an Honor Council member in 2011.