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Grant leads to rare international opportunity

August 01, 2011 12:00AM

This week, Dr. Alex Konopelko, an assistant professor in the Pittsburg State University Department of Physics, is leading a group of PSU students to the ancient German city of Heidelberg. There, at the prestigious Max Planck Institutes for Nuclear Physics and Astronomy, the students will have an opportunity to learn from some of the top physicists and astronomers in the world.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students and the fact that PSU won a grant making the trip possible sometimes causes Konopelko to shake his head.

"I'm still surprised that we got it," Konopelko said. "It is extremely competitive. The grant application is like a small book. Most of the schools that receive grants are big names like MIT and Georgia Tech."

The grant Konopelko refers to is a DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) grant that funds everything except each student's airfare. DAAD grants are funded by the German federal government and are intended to foster international student exchanges.

At the final meeting before the group's departure, Konopelko, a German native, talked about the city of Heidelberg, the university of Heidelberg, the German culture and also covered a long list of details about the trip.

The group will attend presentations on neutrinos and dark matter, high-energy astrophysics, astronomy research, theoretical quantum dynamics and electrodynamics and other topics. They will visit the Heidelberg Observatory and participate in roundtable discussions with professors and researchers. Sandwiched between academic sessions will be several cultural and historical side trips.

Megan Corrigan, assistant director of international programs and services at PSU, said at first she was a little worried that it might be difficult to fill up a study-abroad trip with a physics focus, but found that this was one of the first of the summer trips to get booked.

"The fact that it was so affordable was one big reason," she said.

The tour will leave on July 31 and return on Aug. 10. It is one of 10 study-abroad trips led by PSU faculty this summer. Over the summer, students have studied ecotourism and globalization in Bolivia; Spanish in Spain; English history and literature in England; Business in France, South Korea and Kazakhstan; recreation and education in Costa Rica; and multiculturalism and medicine in Peru.

For information about PSU study-abroad opportunities, contact the Office of International Programs and Services at 620-235-4680 or visit the Study-Abroad website.

©2011 Pittsburg State University