Indiana State University Newsroom

Student receives American Physical Society research award

March 30, 2012

Nine thousand people attended the American Physical Society annual meeting earlier this month in Boston. Of those participants, about 300 undergraduates from 70 schools presented research in the forms of posters and oral presentations. No more than 20 received the Undergraduate Outstanding Research award.

Kirsten Middleton was one of those 20.

Middleton, an Indiana State University sophomore physics major from Paris, Ill., received the award from the Society of Physics Students at the annual meeting, the first time an ISU student has won the award. The award recognizes undergraduate students who exhibited excellent research presentation skills.

"I do hate public speaking," said Middleton, with a chuckle "but I do think it went really well."

Her research involved studying the drug memantine to determine its precise effects on the body, specifically in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The process included gauging the stability of the drug's molecules and its "willingness to accept or donate electrons," said Middleton.

Guo Ping Zhang, associate professor of chemistry and physics at ISU, said Middleton's award is a form of recognition for the research the department has completed through the years.

"This testifies to the quality of our program (research, education and student learning) at Indiana State," Zhang said. "Indiana State is a place that students can learn by doing, and they can be very successful."

Middleton found success by exploring what she enjoyed.

"I find computational chemistry very interesting," Middleton said. "I really like math, but I like applied math. That led me to physics."

Fellow physics major Daniel Moser, a senior, also presented at the conference on "Generating More Electricity From Water."

Middleton and Moser both conducted their research through the SURE program, or Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, where students work alongside faculty in a variety of research areas.

"[Faculty members] are very excited to get students into research. They really want to help us in any way they can to better what we're dong and keep us interested," said Middleton.

Hoping to attend graduate school to study optical engineering, she thinks the size of the physics department provides students further opportunities for research development.

"The physics department is very small and they can be involved with each of us," said Middleton. "You're not one in a big group. You're an individual."

Middleton acknowledged both the challenge and the reward in the research process.

"This has been a good learning experience. It has its ups and downs," Middleton said. "When you finally get results, it makes sense, and it's a little bit exciting."

Photo: Middleton presents her research at the American Physical Society annual meeting. ISU Photo/Courtesy photo

Contact: Guo Ping Zhang, associate professor of chemistry and physics, Indiana State University, 812-237-2044 or

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773