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ISSUE 115 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 4/26/2002

Cederberg honored by Physics Society

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, April 26, 2002

When the molecular beam spectrometer arrived on campus during Week One of September 1981 amidst a throng of newly admitted freshman, there was no inclination as to what impact this 21-foot vacuum system weighing 17,000 pounds would have.

It was by far the biggest arrival of the year, and in the 21 years that it has been housed on campus the molecular beam spectrometer has produced enormous results for Physics Professor Jim Cederberg, who was honored in April by the American Physical Society (APS) for his research in an undergraduate institution.

The spectrometer is a device that studies the structure of atoms and molecules. Sixty-five undergraduate students have contributed to the laboratory over the past 20 years.

"The large number of students we had working on this project is what I believe helped us win this award," Cederberg said. "It’s a credit to all the students who have worked on it over the years."

The citation for Cederberg’s award on the APS web site is complimentary of his relationship with students, saying the honor is "For his sustained and productive research in molecular beam spectroscopy and an extraordinary record of spurring interest in careers in physics through student participation in challenging experiments." Twenty-five of Cederberg’s former students who worked in his research laboratory have gone on to earn doctorates in physics.

Cederberg’s impact on current students can be seen as well.

"Ask him a question about anything, and he’ll always give you an answer, just off the top of his head," Justin Von Stroh ’05 said. "And it’ll be a good one."

The award was presented to Cederberg at the APS conference this week in Albuquerque, N.M. Cederberg, who holds the Grace Whittier Endowed Chair in Physics at St. Olaf, was also recognized by the campus physics department on April 24.

Physics major Evan Frodermann ‘02 addressed a group of students, faculty, and community members at 2 p.m. in the Science Center 170. Last summer Frodermann along with Mike Bongard ‘04, Katie Huber ‘04, and Heather Tollerud ‘03, worked with Cederberg on molecular spectroscopy research, which was funded by the Hardy Research Scholar Fund and the National Science Foundation. In his lecture titled "Studying the Hyperfine Structure of Molecules Through Beam Spectroscopy," Froderman talked about the history of the molecular beam spectrometer and about the work that he and his colleagues did over the summer as they tried to induce transitions using oscillating electric fields.

"If you were around last summer then you know how hot it got," Froderman said. "Rand didn’t have air conditioning, so it was nice to get out of there and spend some time doing research in the cool basement of the Science Center [where the spectrometer is located]."

Froderman who is planning on attending Ohio St. University to work on his graduate degree in physics also worked this spring with the molecular beam spectrometer on an independent research project.

At the end of his address Froderman thanked his advisor for his knowledge and guidance, saying that although the humble Cederberg tries to deny it, his APS award was well deserved.

"On behalf of the molecular beamers, we want to congratulate and say thank you to Dr. Cederberg," Froderman said. "You say it’s us, but we know it’s you."

Cederberg’s colleague, Physics Department Chair David Nitz also spoke on behalf of Cederberg’s prestigious honor.

"If you know Jim, then you know his love for physics," Nitz said. "But as this award recognizes, Jim also has a great deal of love for working with students. Many of us in this room can attest to that."

Cederberg received a $5,000 stipend from the APS for winning the award, plus a separate $5,000 unrestricted grant that is given for research to the winner’s institution.

"We are delighted to see you receive this prestigious recognition, and feel that it is well deserved," Nitz said.

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