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College of Science & Mathematics

Outstanding Achievements: Chris Rotella

For any student, receiving the opportunity to complete a research project is an accomplishment, but receiving the opportunity to stand in front of a fully filled auditorium, packed with experts from around the world, in your discipline, is an even greater achievement. Christopher Rotella, senior Physics major and Mathematics minor, received such an honor and was duly rewarded for his excellence.  
 
This past March, out of approximately 150 undergraduate students who presented their research projects over the five day American Physics Society conference in Baltimore, Maryland, Rotella's presentation on "Optimizing TiC films for CDC applications using Magnetron Sputtering," was the recipient of the "SPS Undergraduate Presentation Award" from the American Physics Society and the Society of Physics Students. 
 
Under the guidance of Jeffery Hettinger and Samuel Lofland, Professors of Physics and Astronomy, with some additional help from Carl Lunk, Rotella and two other students, Justin Buchicchio and Emma Cortes, were able to submit their project abstract by the November 2012 deadline. "The abstract was written before we had [concrete] conclusions," said Rotella, "so I had to change my presentation to fit my data." 
 
The project entailed using the technique of Magnetron Sputtering, which is a process that takes place in an ultra-high vacuum chamber that can reach approximately 1,000 degrees Celsius. With the use of electric and magnetic fields, as well as argon gas, the students injected small pieces of titanium onto a carbon substrate in order to orchestrate a reaction that would create Titanium Carbide (TiC), for the purpose of creating a Carbon Derived Carbide (CDC). A CDC occurs when the metal in a reaction is removed, leaving behind a carbon matrix on the substrate. The students' project mainly focused on creating the Titanium Carbide.
 
Rotella was no stranger to the eight to ten minute presentation with an added question session, as he had also had the opportunity to present at the 2012 APS March conference in Boston, Massachusetts, during his sophomore year.   
 
"Doing the 2012 presentation was a huge advantage when it came to preparing and giving the one this year," said Rotella. "Compiling all of the data I had collected, going through it, and choosing what was important enough to squeeze into such a short talk was very challenging."  
About six other Rowan University students were presenting at the conference as well.
 
Christopher plans to take his presentation and research skills with him on to graduate school to earn his Ph.D. after his time here at Rowan.
On behalf of Rowan University, the College of Science and Mathematics would like to congratulate the students on their momentous achievement.