Matt Koepnick is top student at UNR |

Matt Koepnick is top student at UNR

Staff reports

Matt Koepnick of Gardnerville is one of the three smartest students in the sophomore class at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Koepnick, a Douglas High School graduate, was awarded the prestigious Herz Gold Watch Award for having the highest grade point average in the sophomore class.

He shared the honor with two other students. Koepnick’s GPA is 4.0 which means he has received straight As.

That honor comes on the heels of national recognition he earned recently in Washington, D.C.

Koepnick thought it would be a cool idea to spend a summer working in the atomic physics laboratory of University of Nevada, Reno professor Jeff Thompson.

Little did Koepnick realize that a summer spent in Thompson’s lab would lead to a visit to Washington, D.C. – where the 20-year-old presented the results of his research to national legislators, including Nevada’s congressional delegation. Koepnick’s presentation was part of a prestigious Department of Energy program, the EPSCOR Young Scholars Program.

Koepnick, who is double-majoring in engineering physics and computer science, visited Washington, D.C., April 20-22 as a recipient of a Young Researcher grant.

“It was a lot of fun,” Koepnick said. “It was quite an experience. I remember when I first started working in Jeff’s lab, how I mainly spent the first couple of weeks figuring out what was going on. I had no background in atomic physics – but now, thanks to Jeff’s help, I do.”

Koepnick’s work centered on experiments measuring the photodetachment angular distributions of Vanadium minus, as well as measuring the electron affinity of Gallium.

According to Thompson, the study of Gallium has important implications for the semi-conductor industry. The negative ions of Gallium had never been seen before the ion accelerator in the atomic physics lab caught them with a laser beam.

“The work has generated a lot of interest,” Thompson said. Of his young researcher, Thompson added, “Matt’s a very bright young man. He’s quite a find for the university.”

Koepnick said one of the highlights of his posterboard session with the country’s legislators was time spent with Nevada senators Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, as well as congressman Jim Gibbons.

“Representative Gibbons was a real nice guy,” Koepnick said. “He did a poster session himself. He comes from a technical background (Gibbons earned his bachelor’s degree in geology as well as his master’s in mining/geology at Nevada) and was really interested in the work we’ve been doing.

“In fact, he sort of had to be pried away by his aides. He really seemed to be enjoying himself.”

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