Concordia seniors become published physics scholars

Seven Concordia College seniors exceeded expectations this semester, publishing a research paper that started out as a laboratory project for Dr. Thelma Berquó’s physics 327 class.

The paper, “Characterization of Iron Oxide Samples Using Mössbauer Spectroscopy and Hysteresis Loops,” was published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics and focused on determining phase transitions displayed in four Fe203 phases based on changes in the magnetic behavior after heating to a high temperature. 

The group of students consisted of Noah Halmar, Mikala Hammer, Hayden Netland, Nick Perkins, Taylor Streyle, Colton Thomasson, and Lucas Vanhoever. The team was instructed and mentored by Berquó throughout the experimentation process, as well as the publication process. 

In order to get their research published, the group had to divide responsibilities in the experiment, analysis, and writing; prepare a manuscript of their research and results to be reviewed; submit the manuscript for questions and clarifications; make edits to the manuscript; and continue to strengthen their paper before eventually being accepted into the publication. 

While a rigorous process, the experience had an extremely impressive impact on the students not only academically but also personally. 

In terms of the importance of research in a student’s life, Berquó said, “Research is an important part of a college education. It is a great opportunity to learn something new, improve problem-solving skills, challenge yourself, and interact with colleagues and faculty.”

The results of the meticulous research showed that the four samples annealed had the same properties as hematite. This shows that the iron oxide in the samples went through phase transformations to show these hematite-adjacent properties. 

Halmar, a double major in applied physics and mathematics, shared his thoughts on his research experience, saying, “One of the most exciting parts of this project has been the confidence I’ve gained — not just in my ability to conduct research, but also in my ability to effectively communicate the results.”

He added, “I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Dr. Berquo, who entrusted me and my co-authors with this project and guided us through the process of experimentation and writing the paper. She's an amazing faculty member, especially for students interested in geophysics.”

Learn more about Concordia’s physics department.