Tabor College Prof. conducts research at Wichita State

Norman Schmidt, professor of chemistry at Tabor College, has a unique opportunity this summer to participate in a fellowship with the physics department at Wichita State University.

Schmidt’s role is to assist with research on neutrinos for eight weeks June through August.

Neutrinos are subatomic particles smaller than an electron with no charge that are emitted from nuclear reactions. These nuclear reactions occur in nuclear power plants and rarely elsewhere, but they occur very rapidly in the sun.

“The goal of my research is to design a satellite with a neutrino detector to get close to the sun without burning up,” Schmidt said. “I will need to design the heat shield to protect the detector.

“Once I have the theoretical design, then I am to build a model to help sell the design to NASA so that it will be accepted for a future NASA mission.”

Nickolas Solomey, who is leading the research project for WSU and NASA, serves as Schmidt’s mentor in WSU’s Watkins Fellowship program.

“We are making progress, but it will still be a few weeks before I can say if we have a successful description of the shielding the space craft needs,” Solomey said. “Like all science it is not an easy question and a lot of calculations and simulations are needed to be done and double checked.”

Schmidt began looking for opportunities to add to his work in physics to satisfy new requirements for accreditation.

The Higher Learning Commission, which provides accreditation for Tabor and many other colleges in the Midwest, has increased the amount of graduate work needed to teach at the post-secondary level.

Schmidt saw the posting for the fellowship at WSU and applied. After a review process he was accepted for the opportunity.

“We encourage all our faculty to continue their education so they can provide the most up-to-date information and instruction to our students,” said Frank Johnson vice president of academic affairs. “Dr. Schmidt’s work this summer with WSU is an excellent example of this commitment to academics.”

Schmidt has been teaching at Tabor since 2011. Prior to his tenure at Tabor, he spent 21 years teaching at Georgia Southern University. He earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics from Bethel College in North Newton and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

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