Winona State University senior Noah Finn is not afraid to try something new and see what happens.
The physics major from La Crescent, Minn., earned research credits this spring by erecting an odd-looking contraption in the center of campus. His dual dipole antenna consists of four 11-foot high PVC poles, each 23 feet apart and staked down in a square, topped by copper wires and rigging, with a coaxial cable that feeds into a receiver that sends information to Finn’s laptop.
The setup drew more than a few curious looks and some probing questions, but Finn’s answers to the questions did nothing to dispel the curious looks. What was he doing out there? He was trying to listen to outer space.
“It sounds like waves on the beach or the breeze,” Finn said.
The specific goal of the project was to listen to radio emissions from Jupiter, which can only be heard at night. So far, noise from Jupiter has been elusive, but Finn has heard all types of white noise, interference from cell phones, and even some “weird beeps.” He said he hopes to discover “good data” among all the static.
The next challenge for Finn after he graduates from WSU this May will take him deep into another realm. Not space, but the earthly world of statutes, torts, and codes. Finn has been accepted into the University of Minnesota Law School and will begin his studies this fall.
“I just kind of went for it,” Finn said of his interest in going into law. With the help of his parents, Scott and Lee Finn, he studied hard for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and the rest is history.
“I just thought I’d like being a lawyer,” he said. “Not as much in the courtroom, more of a patent attorney. I think physics will help a lot.”
“Noah is an intellectually curious student,” WSU Physics Professor Nathan Moore said. “He’s a fun guy to have in class, and he’s very interested in figuring out what’s true, and more than that, refining a description of what’s true based on data or ideas we might discuss. Going to law school might be a natural extension of the sort of thinking Noah’s already been practicing in his physics courses.”
Finn said he will miss his WSU community.
“I really like the physics department itself; you get to know the professors and students. We were all pretty friendly.”
The WSU Physics Department has four programs with seven full-time faculty. The faculty endeavor to mentor all students to become lifelong learners and productive members of a sustainable, scientific, and technological society. The department mission is to serve a diverse set of learners throughout the community and the University by promoting scientific inquiry. In pursuit of this mission, the Physics Department provides a high quality post-secondary education in a field that is both challenging and rewarding; creates a learning environment that helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills; serves as a scientific resource for the University and the community; and supports student and faculty research.
For more information, call the WSU Communications Office at 507-457-5024.