First Physics Award Given

Congratulations to James H. "Jim" Nolen ('00) for being the first recipient of the Physics Prize, awarded at Spring Convocation. The Physics Prize was made possible through contributions of alumni and friends to the Physics endowment. It is given to honor outstanding achievement in the study of physics. We think you'll see that Jim certainly qualifies


Jim made contributions to physics research on two fronts while he was at Davidson. The first was in Java programming with Dr. Christian. Jim developed scriptable Physlets® that examined features of the hydrogen atom, molecular dynamics, and the reflection and transmission properties of barriers. The above applets have won first (2000) and second (1999) place awards in the Computers in Science & Engineering competition.

For his honors project, Jim chose to work with Dr. Boye in a study of optical processes in rare earth doped sol-gel silicate glasses.

At the beginning of his research with Boye, Jim wrote a proposal and received a Yarbrough Grant administered by the NC Academy of Science (NCAS). Because of the renovation of Dana, he, another Davidson student, Tim Valdes ('01), and Dr. Boye spent a month in the Physics Department at the University of Georgia working on spectral hole burning spectroscopy of Eu3+ doped sol-gel glasses. A paper reporting results of this study has been submitted to the Journal of Noncrystalline Solids.

Upon returning to Davidson, he set to work in the newly renovated Laser Lab. The timing and wavelengths of the laser pulses all had to be controlled in concert with the new data acquisition software he programmed in LabVIEW. Also, Jim and Jeff Smith ('00), a chemistry major, grew and cured the samples he was to study.

After many long hours in the lab, Jim was ready to present his results. He gave a DC Physics Seminar and wrote an honors thesis entitled Quenching of green upconverted fluorescence in Er3+-doped sol-gel silicate glasses. Upconversion in Er3+ is a process by which two ions absorb red photons and cooperatively relax to emit a higher energy, green photon.

At the March 2000 Meeting of the NCAS at NC State, Jim won the Derieux Award for the best presentation by a student in the Chemistry Division (There were no other physics papers presented.) This past September, Boye presented a poster of their work at the OPTO-Southeast Conference in Charlotte. To top off his many achievements at Davidson, Jim graduated first in the Class of 2000.

Jim received a plaque, a monetary gift, and a hardbound copy of The Feynman Lectures in Physics. Without the generosity of alumni and friends of the department, the establishment of the Prize would not have been feasible.

Jim and his wife, Rebecca ('99), now live in Austin, TX where Jim works for Catapult Systems, an e-business consulting firm. He plans to attend graduate school in math next year.