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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University 2005 graduate Matthew Paoletti is one of six U.S. finalists for the LeRoy Apker Award, a highly distinguished honor given by the American Physical Society to recognize undergraduate physics achievement.
"This award represents major public recognition at the national level, even by being a finalist, and is certainly a great honor for our undergraduate institution," said David Schoepf, Bucknell associate professor of physics and department chair.
"As a finalist, Matt will receive a certificate and an award check of $2,000. Our department also will receive a certificate and an award of $1,000. This is the highest national honor that any undergraduate physics student can receive," said Schoepf.
Paoletti's award letter from the Apker Award Selection Committee noted, "The committee wishes to compliment you and your nominating physics department on the outstanding quality of your work and to congratulate you for having been selected from among so promising a group of young scientists."
Two awards are given annually, one to an undergraduate from a Ph.D. granting institution and one from a non-Ph.D. granting institution. The winner will be selected after Sept. 8, based on talks and interviews with the finalists conducted in Washington, D.C.
Paoletti worked with Tom Solomon, associate professor of physics at Bucknell, on the research project, "Mode-locking of chemical pulses in an advection-reaction-diffusion system." He also presented a talk on this research at the American Physical Society, Division of Fluid Dynamics, Meeting in Seattle in November.
The research studied how chaotic fluid mixing affects the motion of a "flame-like" chemical reaction front in order to obtain effective mixing of chemicals. This research can be applied to the understanding of the mixing of air and fuel in jet and turbine engines as well as to the medical field in the development of microfluidic devices, which are miniaturized devices used mainly for testing things like blood samples.
According to Solomon, Paoletti's research has resulted in two publications for which he is first author: "Experimental studies of front propagation and mode-locking in an advection-reaction-diffusion system," published in Europhysics Letters in March, and "Front propagation and mode-locking in an advection-reaction-diffusion system," which has been submitted to Phys. Rev. E and recommended for publication.
Paoletti and Solomon also are preparing a manuscript, with Bucknell senior Carrie Nugent as a co-author, to be submitted to Science or Nature. Paoletti will speak about this work at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Chicago in November.
Solomon said of Paoletti: "A graduate advisor would be fortunate to have a fifth- or sixth-year graduate student who could match the creativity and productivity that Matt has shown in the past year as an undergraduate taking a full load of courses."
The son of Mary and Michael Paoletti, Monrovia, Md., and a graduate of Urbana High School, Paoletti graduated magna cum laude from Bucknell in May with a bachelor of science degree and departmental honors in physics. As an undergraduate, he was a dean's list student and member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
During commencement ceremonies he received the Harold Miller Prize for excellence in the honors program, the Phi Beta Kappa Award for conspicuous achievement in any discipline, and the W. Norwood Lowry Prize given to the graduating senior in physics who shows the greatest achievement and promise in physics.
Paoletti will begin a graduate program in physics at the University of Maryland - College Park and plans to complete a doctorate in physics before beginning a career in academics.