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Hands-On Work, Preparation for an Engineering Path

Marcos Ferreccio ’17 and Alex Cornwell ’17 spent this summer building and optimizing an electron spin resonance (ESR) magnetometer. The research project was supervised by physics professor Brian Collett and the Litchfield Professor of Astronomy Gordon Jones.

Last semester Ferreccio and Cornwell took the course Research Seminar, in which they learned Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and conducted a small NMR research project. The class prepared them well for the summer research and sparked Ferreccio’s interests in the topic. While the basic concepts of ESR are analogous to NMR, ESR is a method for studying materials with unpaired electrons. It is especially useful for studying metal complexes or organic radicals.  

The team’s goal was to design and create a uniform magnetic field necessary for ESR magnetometer under certain temperature and spatial constraints, as well as a coil-heated oven that produces a minimum magnetic field and a constant temperature.

Ferreccio’s research group started by investigating published research articles to find the best way to produce a uniform magnetic field. They used Excel and a modeling program FEMME to calculate the uniformity and strength of the magnetic fields that certain designs produced. They worked in the machine shop to make this design a reality. The team managed to get the final piece to produce a magnetic field of very high homogeneity, which is a key for the magnetometer.

For the second part of the research, the team built and tested the coil-heated oven and verified that its temperature inside was at the desired uniformity while the magnetic field produced by the coil was at a minimum. Near the end of the research, the team incorporated components into those built by Thomas Soddi ’17 and Kevin Carey’s group.

“Besides the fascinating physics behind the project, what intrigued me the most was the engineering aspect it required. Being able to see a physical end product from my work is something deeply rewarding,” he concluded. The research will resume next spring as Ferreccio’s senior thesis. He is planning to go to engineering graduate school after Hamilton, and he expects the thesis will help him hone the necessary skills required to pursue engineering.

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