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Groh Awarded CERN Undergraduate Research Fellowship

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16 January 2012

John Groh, a physics and math double major and Schreyer Honors College scholar, has recently been awarded a prestigious CERN undergraduate research fellowship for this summer. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research.

Originally from Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, Groh, a sophomore, chose to major in physics and math at Penn State because he was attracted to the fundamental nature of the areas.  As a young research scientist, Groh also wanted to experience the opportunities of a small college with the resources and research of a large university like Penn State.

While at Penn State, Groh has been working the the lab of Stephane Coutu, professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics, on two cosmic ray detectors.  The detectors measure the charge of highly energetic, fully ionized nuclei that are constantly entering our atmosphere from elsewhere in the galaxy.  Both use plastic scintillators to create flashes of light proportional to the square of the charge of a particle passing through them.  The light is then collected by several photomultiplier tubes, which convert this photon signal to an electrical signal that we can use to store data and analyze it later.  In addition to research, Groh helped update some of the hardware on the older of the two detectors, the Timing Charge Detector (TCD), and helped integrate it with several other detectors from collaborators at other universities in preparation for the next balloon flight of the Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM) experiment.  Groh also helped design the photomultiplier tube system for a newer, space-borne charge detector that also has the ability to discriminate between protons and electrons/positrons.

During the summer, Groh will continue his undergraduate research in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the CERN Summer Student program.  Groh will receive his research assignment in March. The CERN fellowship attracts about 800 international applications every year, and only about 10 fellowships are awarded to U.S. students.

After Penn State, Groh plans to attend graduate school earn a Ph.D.  Eventually he hopes to have a career in research at a university, so Groh expects to take a postdoctoral position before apply for faculty positions.

In his free time, Groh loves to go rock climbing, expedition caving, trail running, alpine and cross-country skiing, and backpacking.  He is an officer for the Penn State Outing Club and is involved in the Nittany Grotto Caving Club.

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