Changing Physics

Miriam Contreras, Audrey Vasquez and Marcus Asaro pose in front of the steel machinery in the laboratory at University California, Riverside. Photo by Kiara Jerez.

Miriam Contreras, Audrey Vasquez and Marcus Asaro pose in front of the steel machinery in the laboratory at University California, Riverside. Photo by Kiara Jerez.

Surrounded by steel machinery, dedicated students, Audrey Vasquez and Miriam Conteras at UCR's Department of Physics and Astronomy work on experiments that can create an impact in physics. 

In the laboratory, a scientific procedure that was worked on in the UCR laboratory are the 1s and 2s experiments. 

“This is aimed at hopefully shedding light on one of the biggest problems in physics, called the proton radius puzzle. Turns out we don't really know the size of a proton which is defined by its charge radius. We thought we did but in experiments in the mid 2000’s, there was a discrepancy found. So something funny is going on in physics right now, it’s a little broken so we don’t know what’s going on. A lot of people are trying to figure it out and this experiment will hopefully shed light on it and solve the proton radius puzzle which would be a huge discovery,” explains curator Marcus Asaro. The laboratory is entirely surrounded by steel machinery. A lot of the machinery is being used for the 1s and 2s experiments. With the help of their magnetic field, it is useful to the experiments that are currently being tested on and for future research. 

One of the projects the students worked on is they maintained a power supply for a tellurium chamber. “The power supply is being used to heat up heating elements which are designed to evaporate the tellurium metalloid inside a sealed glass cell. At that point we use lasers to perform spectroscopy on the gas,” says intern, Vasquez. The data will be collected from the interactivity between matter and the electromagnetic waves. 

Inspired after visiting Northern California and different universities, Contreras explains her experience from the trip. It motivated her to become more experienced in work and research. Keeping her options open, she hopes the STEM program can open opportunities for her and know what major she’s interested in. 

“I know I would like to do something in the science field, but I don’t know if bioengineering like I want to know that’s exactly what I want to do. When I saw the different positions they had in the program, this is the one that interested me. Hopefully with this program, I will know if I like this research thing or not,” explains Contreras. 

The main goal the students have is learning more about the different processes in physics. Becoming more aware about the material and applying it to hands on research is their goal during this internship. 

“There’s been class I’ve taken at Chaffey and I’m already seeing how some of the information I’ve learned is already applicable here. It’s given me a little more background on the topic,” explains Vasquez. 

Vasquez and Contreras enjoyed the STEM research program brought them together to perform research, become more familiar with physics and help construct their future careers.