Many students in the Faculty of Science have the opportunity to work in research labs during the summer as part of the Undergraduate Summer Research Awards (USRA) program (funded by NSERC and the Faculty of Science), and through a number of other grants held by Faculty of Science professors. Josh Jung is one student who participated in the USRA program, and this article is the first in a series about the undergraduate student summer research experience.
Josh is a Faculty of Science student working on a Joint Honours degree in Computer Science and Physics.
“Coming out of high school, those were the two subjects I was most interested in, so being able to focus on both subjects seemed (and was, I think), a good option,” explains Josh. His summer research experience in Dr. Byron Southern’s (Physics and Astronomy) research group working on “Spin Dynamics at Magnetic Interfaces” enabled him to put both of his areas of interest to use. Although he had to hit the books to get up to speed on magnetic interactions, Josh was then able to work on modeling and writing code in C, Fortran, Matlab and Maple.
The fundamental science project he worked on aims to increase current understanding of the interface (the surface) between two magnetic films: the ferromagnetic layer (like the magnets that stick and hold fridge doors in place) and the antiferromagnetic layer (a magnet that doesn’t stick, but forms the bottom layer and influences the behavior of the ferromagnetic film).
These exchange coupled ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic films are essential in modern data storage and are used in Magnetic Random Access Memories (MRAM). The behaviour of atomic magnetic moments remains one of the most important puzzles in material science. The phenomenon of pinning the magnetization direction of a thin-film ferromagnet due to coupling with an adjacent thin-film antiferromagnet is key to spin-valve based magnetic transducer technology.
Using experimental measurements, conducted on a layered continuous film, gathered by the Can-Ming Hu (Physics and Astronomy) research group, Josh ran both analytical and micromagnetic simulations to model the measurements. This project gave him access to GREX, the new High Performance Computer (HPC) cluster located at the UM so that these complex modeling simulations could run in parallel.
“One of the coolest things about research is the feeling of actually doing science. Nobody, anywhere, knows the answers to these questions. Our goal is to see if we can find them. It’s very different from other work in that way,” says Josh.
“Unlike in courses where you are studying something that is known, in a research lab, you are working on something that is not known and building on existing knowledge. As an undergraduate student working in a research lab, you can be part of this process and have access to some pretty high-tech equipment.”
In the foreseeable future Josh intends to finish his BSc degree at the U of M. Beyond that, he’s not sure. He is interested in pursuing graduate studies, but is not sure about the field of study.
“Give research a try. It probably won’t be like anything you’ve ever done before!”
Josh Jung - Summer NSERC Student
Josh with his supervisor, Dr. Byron Southern, Physics and Astronomy, in front of the GREX High Performance Computer cluster on which Josh ran the simulations and analyses during his summer research project.