For most students, the summer is usually a time for friends, family and fun before the grind of another school year. For student-athletes it's a time train to maintain their conditioning and play pick-up or summer league ball, but otherwise enjoy the break just like everyone else.
Then there are the not-so-average, people like Joe Harms.
Harms, a 6-7 redshirt sophomore for the Govs basketball team, is a physics major with ambitions to one day become a medical physicist who works with radiation treatments for cancer patients. To do that, he needs to enter graduate school and to do that, most schools require a project.
This summer, Harms began that project at the Sundquist Science Building, under the tutelage of Dr. Justin Oelgoetz. His task? Build a fully-functioning desktop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine for university use.
Let's allow Joe to explain what that is.
"An NMR machine uses electric currents to let you see the molecular structure of samples," Harms explained. "It's useful in research and is the scientific process behind MRI machines. Organic chemistry teaches these processes in class and our chemistry department at Austin Peay already has one of these in their department."
In the spring, Harms and Dr. Oelgoetz met to discuss the project. Armed with his assignment, Harms undertook a summer that was very different from that of your average college student. At a lab in the Sundquist Science Building, Harms began his project.
"To get started, I had to build the machine and wire the circuits," Harms said. "Then, I had to measure the current in the sample using an oscilloscope.
"For about a month in the project, I did signal analysis. I'd go in the morning and my advisor would give me a task that needed to be finished each day. I spent a lot of time in the lab and thinking critically."
During June, when the Govs were back on the floor for summer practice, Harms work in the lab was interrupted by his commitment to basketball. Ultimately, he thinks this project can last until he graduates, at which point he can pass the work along to another promising physics student.
"Dr. Oelgoetz understands that basketball is my top priority," Harms said. "Like Coach (Dave) Loos, he tries to steer and guide me in the right direction to accomplish my long-term goals."
Last week, Harms presented his early findings at Austin Peay's Summer Research Symposium at the Honors Common inside the Memorial Health Building.
So Joe what's more difficult, physics or basketball?
"Both are pretty tough and very time-consuming," Harms said. "I would say basketball is a little easier. I don't have to read several books describing how the game works. However, basketball is definitely more fun."