July 7, 2008

KU Physics Student Examines Cosmic Ray Effects on Atmosphere

By Mark Vierthaler, Journal-World, Lawrence, Kan.

Jul. 7--Members of Kansas University's physics department now have a new tool to help them determine what effect cosmic rays may have on mass extinction.

While working with a group of other researchers, Alexander Krejci, Lawrence senior, developed a set of calculations that would allow researchers to study the effect a large number of rays could have on the Earth's atmosphere.

Adrian Mellott, professor of astrobiophysics and cosmology, said Krejci's discovery was especially useful because in the past, physicists were able to only study individual cosmic rays.

Krejci was named one of five finalists for the Vanderbilt Prize for Undergraduate Research in Physics and Astronomy. The award is given annually by the physics and astronomy department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Robert Scherrer, department chair of Vanderbilt's physics program, said the award began four years ago to recognize undergraduate students who had shown noteworthy achievements in their field. "We've had some very talented applicants lately," he said.

Mellott said Krejci's development would help not only researchers at KU, but anyone else who wanted to study the effects that a large number of cosmic rays could have on the atmosphere.

Mellott said he was pleased to see one of the students he had advised earn recognition for the work he had produced as an undergraduate.

Krejci, who is spending the summer in Geneva, Switzerland, at the European Center for Nuclear Research as an undergraduate researcher, said in an e-mail it was good to know that he was able to learn without a textbook.

"It feels good to know that I accomplished something noteworthy," Krejci said.


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