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Engineering, physics students work alongside world class scientists in summer research

By on April 5, 2018 in Academic News, Campus News with 0 Comments

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Caleb Hicks has conducted research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and now ACU's new Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab.
Caleb Hicks has conducted research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and now ACU's new Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab.

Summers have been most unusual the last couple of years for ACU senior Caleb Hicks – and that’s one reason he chose ACU.

Instead of enjoying the scenery in his hometown of Greeley, Colorado, Caleb has been conducting research, alongside world class scientists, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

As Dr. Rusty Towell, one of Caleb’s professors, pointed out: In a national laboratory with 500 researchers, only four or five will be undergraduate students – and all of them are from Abilene Christian University.

“That was one of the main reasons I came to ACU,” Caleb said.

It is rare that undergraduate students are allowed to conduct research in national nuclear labs like Fermi, Los Alamos and Brookhaven on Long Island. But ACU is well-represented at all of them.

That opportunity, plus small class sizes, is attractive to top-notch science students like Caleb. Now, with the opening of the Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab in the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium on campus, those students are getting even more hands-on research.

Caleb already has taken the Graduate Record Exam and is preparing for life in graduate school. A lot of graduate programs require that students have five upper level courses on their transcript before being considered. “I’ve had close to 10,” Caleb said.

Caleb learned about ACU through a family friend, who recommended he check it out. He did and was sold. Now he is nearing the end of his ACU experience. During his final two semesters, Caleb is finishing his graduation requirements by taking classes in Hebrew.

That might seem an odd choice for a physics major, but it is something that Caleb has delved into before.

“I had sort of poked at it a little bit when I was in high school,” Caleb said.

His sister was interested in Hebrew, so he picked it up, too, and found it to be intriguing.

If Caleb isn’t in class, at a meeting of the Society of Physics Students or hanging out with friends, he most likely can be found in the NEXT Lab.

His excellent grades, plus the research experience he gained pretty well guarantee he will continue his studies at one of the nation’s top graduate schools. His professor has no doubt.

“He’ll be accepted somewhere,” Towell said.

Learn more about the Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab

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