COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — An important part of the student experience at the University of Mount Union is participating in collaborative and engaging research with faculty. Seniors Zachary Perrico ’24 and Brianna Rapp ’24 had their hard work recognized through the publication of their research in object tracking in the October 2023 edition of The Physics Teacher.
“As a premier journal in the physics education community, The Physics Teacher is a valuable resource for physics educators in high schools, colleges and universities,” said Dr. Colin Campbell, associate professor of physics at Mount Union. “Publishing in a premier peer-reviewed journal is a fantastic achievement for anyone, and it is especially formative for an undergraduate student.”
Perrico, a double major in computer science and mathematics, and Rapp, a physics major, analyzed the motion of objects in video tracking through the implementation of algorithms in a program called the STEMcoding Object Tracker. This research is important as, according to Perrico, it “can then be used by students studying physics to better understand forces and properties of motion.”
Perrico (front) works on a data science project
This project provided an avenue for Perrico and Rapp, both also minoring in data science and analytics, to participate in interdisciplinary work not offered to many undergraduates across the country.
“Sit Lux and STEMcoding were my first step into the world of research, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The environment was welcoming and friendly and the projects were a perfect mixture of difficulty,” Perrico said. “Being published before graduate school has been a large goal of mine. I feel that I am more prepared on my path and that I have obtained a large advantage that helps me stand out as I apply to schools.”
The students participated in this effort through Mount Union’s Sit Lux Program, which provides students with paid research opportunities with faculty over the summer. They were led by Campbell, Heather Milliken Mercer, instructor of biology, and Dr. Katie Ritchey, assistant professor of mathematics, on this endeavor. They also had the chance to collaborate with peers from The Ohio State University and the private sector to see the project through.
“Seeing students grow across the course of their undergraduate education is a great joy,” said Campbell. “I know I speak for the entire interdisciplinary team of mentors, which includes professionals in the private sector and faculty at both the University of Mount Union and The Ohio State University, when I say that we’re very proud of Brianna and Zachary. I look forward to hearing about their many successes as they move on from Mount Union.”
Perrico and Rapp were able to present this research prior to the publication at the American Physical Society Regional Meeting in Fall of 2021 and to the Ohio Council of Teachers in Mathematics. Working with Mount Union faculty and external mentors afforded the guidance and meaningful interaction to see the project through.
“My professors have done a great job with providing me with rigorous class work as well as giving me the skills to succeed in those classes,” Rapp said. “They have also opened doors for summer research internships. For example, I did a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Penn State University and Ohio State, overall preparing me well for my next adventures after undergrad.
The full article can be found in Volume 61, Issue 7 of The Physics Teacher and more information about the physics and data science and analytics programs at Mount Union can be found, respectively, at mountunion.edu/physics and mountunion.edu/data-science.