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Around the Columns

Combining art and science

Nick Cobblah
As an undergraduate, Nick Cobblah of Sedalia, Mo., did humanities research before switching to his current work in physics. Photo by Rob Hill

 

As a recipient of the Brazeal Honors College Endowed Diversity Scholarship, Nick Cobblah earned a spot in Mizzou’s Discovery Fellows program, which put him in a research setting as soon as he stepped on campus. 

Cobblah, a physics and English major, spent his first two years at Mizzou doing English research before switching over to his current studies in physics. Among double majors, the combination of physics and English is rare. However, don’t tell that to Cobblah. 

“I think in some ways science has an impact on literature and literature has an impact on science,” says the Sedalia, Mo., native. “A lot of times you’ll be reading through a piece of literature and there will be some science reference that captures people’s minds. The reverse also happens when you get literature driving the scientific process, especially with regard to the imagination found in science-fiction writing.”

Cobblah, now a senior, uses his research experience as a student ambassador in MU’s Office of Undergraduate Research. It is an ideal role for someone who understands the differences and the opportunities in both hard sciences and humanities research.

Cobblah is working on a research project with Paul Miceli, a professor in MU’s department of physics and astronomy. Cobblah, Miceli and four graduate students are examining thin films that grow on top of other material. In their study, a layer of silver is grown on top of silicon. 

“The method we use for making the thin films has many technological applications,” Cobblah says. “Films like the ones we study are used in everything from pacemakers to vending machine controls. If we can gain a better understanding of the way in which these films grow, that knowledge can be used to improve how they are utilized by those technological applications.”

Cobblah graduates in May and plans to pursue a master’s degree. However, whether his focus will be physics or English remains undecided. His best-case scenario: Find a way to incorporate both.