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Computational Science: Better Than Science Fiction

In Ian Reynolds’ world, science fiction has met reality. Reynolds, a Stark State sophomore computational science major, returned this semester fresh from an internship where everyday life shook hands with futuristic ideas – black holes before breakfast, tactile digital images in the afternoon, a buffet of the likes of three dimensional virtual reality, supercomputers created from video cards and one of only three of the world’s two-mile vacuums filled with high-powered lasers hoping to detect a gravitational wave.

Reynolds spent his summer at Louisiana State University focusing on research in plasmonics. Plasmons are density waves of electrons, created when light hits the surface of a metal under precise circumstances. They can theoretically encode a lot of information, more than what's possible for conventional electronics. Reynolds advanced research in the field of plasmonic solar cells.

Although his research was highly technical, including his first foray into supercomputers, he’s able to distill the heady stuff down to a presentation for laymen. “I don’t want to sound like a big nerd, so basically it’s all about testing new materials and design ideas to capture the energy of the sun,” he said.

Outside of days filled with intense conversations populated with terms like “sparse matrix field,” “Finite-Difference Frequency-Domain,” “nanometers,” and “detractors,” Reynolds and other interns were able to sample some New Orleans flavor – Cajun food, historic sites and alligators. “We had a lot of fun,” he said, “learning, being constantly exposed to new things. I want to work in research and I loved it; I thought, ‘I could do this for the rest of my life.’”

Reynolds, energized from testing new materials and design ideas, is excited to continue his studies. After his December graduation from Stark State, he’ll move to Ohio State to finish up work on a bachelor’s degree in computational science. Even though he’s just a few hours shy of a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he knows computational science is the right fit for his future.

“In this field you’re not limited to just physics or chemistry,” he said. “It covers a broad spectrum of things, all with a computer aspect. If you like science and playing video games, this program is a great choice. The mix of computers and science gives you a broad spectrum of career choices. It’s amazing what you can do. It’s almost science fiction!”

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