Department of Physics

Physics Major Strikes "Gold"

The UNI Physics Department is pleased to announce that Joseph Tibbs (Alden, Iowa) has received a nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship in Science and Mathematics.  The Goldwater Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering.  The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award in these fields. This year 496 Scholars were selected from a field of 1,223 students nominated by colleges and universities nationwide.

Joseph Tibbs is a junior at UNI with double majors in Physics and Biochemistry.  His goal is to work toward a PhD in Biomedical Engineering where he can develop new medical technologies.  He is particularly interested in bringing together his passion for physics and biochemistry to explore novel techniques such as microfluidics and functionalized nanomaterials.  Techniques such as these have potential for improved drug delivery systems to treat and cure disease and as analytical tools that will help detect disease.  Professor Paul Shand, Physics Department Head, said that “Joseph is an exceptionally gifted student.  He is one of the best physics majors I have had the pleasure of teaching in my 26 years at UNI.”

Joseph’s research project with Dr. Ali Tabei (Physics, UNI) and Dr. Maria Spies (Biochemistry, UIowa) through the FUTURE program provided him with an early success.  In this project he taught himself Matlab programming and image processing.  He used these skills to improve and extend an algorithm that allows complex data of molecule-to-molecule interactions to be tracked and displayed.  The program resulting from this project is helping to better understand the underlying mechanism of DNA repair. He is co-author on one paper from this work and a second publication is also in preparation.  This past summer, Joseph worked in Dr. Michael Murrell’s lab at the Laboratory of Living Materials at Yale University within the Department of Biomedical Engineering. For this coming summer, Joseph will be working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Joseph said, "Undergraduates like me know that the earlier they can be exposed to research, the more prepared they will be to succeed in projects of their own. Being involved in a wide variety of research allows students and professors alike to gain experience in more techniques, and to apply those techniques in new and creative ways. Keeping programs like FUTURE strong helps make research in Iowa connected and collaborative; this will benefit the universities and researchers involved, as well as the general public who benefits from this research, for years to come.”

In the past 12 years, UNI students have received 2 Goldwater Scholarships and 4 Honorable Mentions.  Some of these students have gone on to win additional nationally competitive awards and are research active in their current positions.