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Source: Sean McBride, smcbride@k-state.edu

Monday, May 17, 2010

K-STATER AMONG SELECT FEW TO PARTICIPATE, PRESENT WORK AT PRESTIGIOUS GRADUATE RESEARCH SEMINAR

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University doctoral candidate in physics was selected to participate and present his work at a prestigious new seminar for graduate research.

Sean McBride, Manhattan, who is working on a doctorate in physics at K-State, was one of only 40 students selected to attend the first Faraday Discussion Graduate Research Seminar, April 10-11, at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. An organizing committee selected students to attend the seminar based on scientific merit and academic credentials.

At the seminar, well-respected scientists were invited to present lectures that covered recent developments in the field and provided overviews of current research topics. The overall theme of the seminar focused on building up student understanding of current experimental techniques, theories and models of wetting interactions on structured surfaces, all while immersed in a student-dominated environment.

Along with being invited to attend, McBride was one of only six students selected to give an oral presentation at the seminar. His presentation was "An improved determination of the spring constant and slip length using large colloidal probe atomic force microscopy." In addition, McBride also was invited to present a poster on his research at the 146th Faraday Discussion meeting, April 12-14, also in Richmond. The topic of the meeting also was wetting interactions on structured surfaces.

McBride's research involves measuring very small forces, equivalent to one-trillionth the size of the typical forces experienced in everyday life.

"In order to measure this we use an atomic force microscope, which functions like the spring that causes a ball-point pen to extend and retract from its case," McBride said. "For the pen, if we know the stiffness of the spring and if we know how much the spring was compressed, we then know the force we exerted to open and close the pen by multiplying the stiffness of the spring by the amount it was compressed.

"The microscope functions in the same manner as the pen, except the spring in the microscope is less than one-thousandth the stiffness of the spring in a typical ball-point pen," he said. "The research presented at these two conferences was devoted to improving the accuracy of knowing the stiffness of the spring in the atomic force microscope which is needed to make accurate force measurements."

McBride's major professor at K-State is Bruce Law, professor of physics.

McBride said the environment at the seminar made it very easy for students to introduce themselves not only to each other, but also to the seminar's well-established keynote speakers.

"This outstanding environment certainly presented opportunities for students to feel comfortable to network and share ideas at all levels," McBride said. "I am sure future collaborations will develop between young scientists and their peers as a result of the atmosphere established in the seminar, which also carried through to the 146th Faraday Discussion meeting."

McBride received a National Science Foundation/Department of Energy fellowship to cover most of the costs associated with attending the Faraday seminar and meeting.

McBride is the son of Duy and Sheila McBride, Catawissa, Pa. He earned a bachelor's in physics from Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, Pa., and a master's in physics from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.