SULI Student Spotlight – Lacey


I’m Lacey. I go to Virginia Tech and I’m a rising senior in physics. And, this is actually my second year in SULI, and it’s exciting because this year I’m doing more experimental physics as opposed to theoretical stuff on the computer. And I found that’s definitely what I’m a little bit better at than more theoretical stuff. I like doing hands-on stuff. So, I’m working with Pashupati. He’s a staff scientist in the Test Lab. And he spends most of his time in the Vertical Testing Area and he tests the SRF cavities. And, so, I’m helping him with a side project where we take little bits of niobium and we’re trying to measure, and also optimize, the thermal conductivity of niobium. And, so, we have a small, kind of nugget, of niobium that’s like a little rectangle. And then we wrap this really high resistance wire around the top. And, when current goes through that wire, the top of the niobium is going to get warm. And, then the bottom is hooked into, like, a cold finger that goes into a liquid helium bath at around 1.5 to 2 Kelvin. And then we measure the temperature gradient between those two areas. And then, based on that, and the size of the niobium, and also, like, the current applied, we can actually calculate the thermal conductivity, and then kind of optimize based on the purity of the niobium, and different treatments, what’s the best way to get the highest conductivity. This is my second year at SULI and it’s meant a lot for me to come back because I can do more experimental things this year. I’ve learned throughout the last couple of years that I’m a much better experimental physicist than a theoretical physicist. It’s been my first experience in a professional workplace where they do research. And, even though I’m doing a very small job, it feels like I’m really making a difference. And that some of the things I’m learning and understanding about niobium and how heat moves through it could actually really help people in the future. I’ve also gained a lot more confidence in my ability to do things in the lab. Pashupati, when he first explained what I was going to be doing, I was definitely very intimidated and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it or understand the science. And he did a great job of explaining things and always being there if I had questions, but also trying to get me to answer questions on my own and understand things. And that’s definitely built-up confidence for me. And I feel, like, going into the future as a research scientist, I’ll have a good basis to start with.

4 thoughts on “SULI Student Spotlight – Lacey”

  1. Cool research topic! And very well communicated Lacey. Well done! Does any part of the niobium go super conducting? Iā€™m guessing that might make your calculations challenging?

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