Sunday Morning Comics: Research @ HMC Edition

Mudd students learn to be good scientific communicators, and four Mudd students have created comics to explain some of the research that students are doing with faculty*. Grab some milk and cereal (or whatever your preferred weekend breakfast food is), get comfy in your favorite chair, and enjoy these Sunday Morning Comics. If the print is a little small, open the comics in a new window or tab to view the full size version.

Experimental Soft Matter Physics by Maya Martinez:

Hand-drawn black and white comic explaining Professor Gerbode's experimental soft matter physics research. The comic explains that atoms are stacked periodically in crystalline materials, but there are often imperfections that influence material properties like conductivity and mechanical strength. The group studies crystalline imperfections using colloids as a model for atoms, which move too quickly to be examined. Colloids can be manipulated with a laser to create imperfections, which can then be observed under a microscope.

Social Insect Research by Nora Nickerson:

Hand-drawn comic explaining ant thropomorphesis research in Professor Matasci-Donaldson's lab. A single turtle ant colony can have multiple nexts and queens. The researchers have designed an arena so they can control the paths between nests to study how ants distribute resources between them. Individual ants are tagged with tiny RFID chips so they are able to compare individual behavior to colony behavior. Some paths in the arena are breakable, allowing for manipulation and experimentation.

Quantum Optics by Ivy Chen:

Comic on Lynn Lab's quantum optics research. The lab studies entangled pairs of photons, which share information with one another. They perform experiments (using lasers!) to study properties of different types of entanglement, and uses math to find properties of generalized particle entanglement.

Solid State Physics Research by Mae Lee:

Part 1 of the comic on Breznay Lab, which studies solid state physics. It's a field exploring how atoms and their electrons pack together. They can arrange their spins, like in a magnet, or flow free like in a conductor. If electrons plant themselves and don't move, they form a dielectric. Electrons can interact with each other, and Breznay lab seeks to understand how they interact in super conductors. Electrons will pair up and spin around each other in a "quantum waltzing" phenomenon.

Part 2 of the comic explaining Breznay Lab research. Solid state physics is an active, new field relying on advancements in quantum mechanics. It has connections to engineering, computing, materials science, and has many applications. One student researcher, Isaac Zinda, is researching the magnetic properties of iridium crystals.

*as you might notice, three of these 4 comics are focused on research in the Physics Department. The Women in Physics club at Harvey Mudd College made these to help their club members better understand and access the undergrad research opportunities in their department. At some point in the next few months, I’m planning to sit down with the Women in Physics leadership to talk about what their club is doing, the state of Women in Physics at Mudd and across the nation, and just to learn more about them!

If you’re a current Mudd student and you have other research comics you’d like to share with the blog, contact me at Thanks!