Copus’ magnetic rogue waves presentation leads to three-minute thesis success

Matthew Copus presenting on magnetic rogue waves
Matthew Copus presents on magnetic rogue waves during the 2019 Mountain Lion Grad Slam competition Feb. 1.

Matthew Copus, a doctoral student in applied science for physics, successfully condensed his work on magnetic rogue waves into three minutes and won the top prize in the 2019 Mountain Lion Grad Slam 3MT competition Feb. 1. He competed against the winners of 15 other universities at the regional competition March 6, and will represent UCCS again at the state competition March 14.

Copus is working with faculty mentor Robert Camley, distinguished professor and chair of Physics and Energy Science, to see how spinning electrons inside of magnetic materials can create spin waves and how to connect this with the concept of rogue waves. This could possibly change magnetic memory storage. If multiple bits in a hard drive can be flipped at once through a magnetic rogue wave, it could multiply the storage capacity of hard drives by hundreds or thousands of times.

“I like the idea of coming up with new technology,” Copus said. “When I asked Dr. Camley about opportunities, he suggested magnetic rogue waves. I took his class magnetism in spring 2018, worked on the project throughout the following semester and now we’re testing. His background has helped a lot in the computer simulations and has given us some pretty usable data.”

Camley worked with Peter Grünberg, the 2007 Nobel Prize winner in physics who discovered how to store vast amounts of data. That discovery helped make possible to develop devices like the iPod and modern computers memories.

To turn a complex subject like magnetic rogue waves into an easy-to-understand three-minute presentation, Copus credits Camley and his wife, Katrin. From an original five minute, fast-paced presentation, he was able to cut it down to a comfortable three minutes that he’s delivered on campus and at the Western Association of Graduate Schools regional competition March 6 in Tucson, Arizona.

“Everyone has a basic understanding of magnetism, but when you are deep into the subject, you sometimes forget that everyone else isn’t an expert too,” Copus said. “It was illuminating to remember where that line is, and what kind of assumptions we can make.”

Copus is the second UCCS winner and the first that has competed at the regional level. Alisa Bartel, a doctoral psychology student, won the inaugural campus competition in 2018 with her presentation “Different Not Damaged.” Katie Granier, a master’s psychology student, earned the 2019 second-place $500 prize with “How Bad Could It Be? The Effects of Trauma Type on Perceptions of Trauma Severity.” Kayah Swanson, a master’s public administration student, earned the People’s Choice award for “The Grassroots Solution to Gender-Based Violence in Sub-Sahara Africa” from the crowd.

The competition is based on the “Three Minute Thesis” established in 2008 by the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. The goal is to develop the skill to effectively explain the significance of their research to those who aren’t experts in their area.

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