Aspiring Physicist Explores Nanoparticles, Masters Presentation
Date published: August 22, 2017
This past summer, senior Nicholas Terranova, BS ’18, spent 11 weeks running and processing
magnetic simulations at the National Institute for Standards in Technology (NIST)
in Gaithersburg, Maryland, as part of his Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
During the course of the internship, Terranova’s daily life consisted of working with
up to four separate computers that ran the simulations, which could take anywhere
from half an hour to three days. While he waited, he catalogued his work, planned
new simulations, researched information in the library and strove to find creative
ways to process, present and visualize his data.
The findings of the simulation data will help further research on nanoparticles, which
could inform a possible solution to the problem of temperature measurement of matter
inside a large volume, current methods for which are impractical. Using nanothermometry
would entail distributing tiny spheres made of two different types of metal (bi-magnetic
nanoparticles) throughout a volume, thereby measuring the volume’s temperature by
measuring the change in the magnetic response of the particles to an applied magnetic
field. Nanoparticles made from the proposed metals (iron and gadolinium) are difficult
to fabricate, however, so the magnetic response of thin films could instead be modeled
using existing magnetics software and compared to experimental measurements of the
same thin film systems.
To culminate his 11 weeks in the program, Terranova gave a 15-minute presentation
on this topic as it pertains to his research dealing with these magnetic thin films,
winning the award for the best talk in the Physical Measurement Laboratory’s Physics
A physics major, Terranova learned about the SURF internship through the Physics Department
— the same department that drew him to UD in the first place when he initially visited
the campus with his mother, who’d learned about the university through homeschooling
“Ultimately, the combination of the Catholic community coupled with the strong physics
program led me to attend UD,” said Terranova.
Physics came naturally as his choice of major, as he had been fascinated by it from
middle school onward.
“I enjoyed hearing about the strange workings of the universe God created, especially
the physical phenomena that occur outside of the everyday human experience,” said
Terranova. “Physics strikes a great balance between investigating the wonders of creation
and working to improve the lives of people around the world. Without Einstein’s theories
of relativity, for example, modern conveniences such as GPS would not be possible.”
After his graduation from UD in May 2018, Terranova plans to go on to graduate school,
but beyond that, he’s not sure yet.
“I would like to thank the faculty of the UD Physics Department for providing me immense
support in research and in my studies during my time at UD,” he said. “I’m also grateful
to the many students I’ve met at UD, especially my fellow physics majors, who have
also conducted meaningful research at other agencies and institutions.”