James McAuley & Edmund Myers

Image of James McAuley, Honors in the Major Student. Physics. Mentor: Dr. Edmund Myers. Student is wearing buttoned down shirt with tie. He has short brown hair and is smiling.

James McAuley


Dual Honors Honors Graduate

Thesis: Simulation of an Antihydrogen Molecular Ion Production Scheme


Questions for the student:

Where are you from?

"I grew up in Tallahassee."

In a few sentences tell us about your Honors in the Major project! How would you describe it to someone not in your academic field?

"My Honors in the Major project focused on simulating the motion of an ion in a special ‘ion trap’ called a Penning trap. Penning traps are constructed of strong electromagnets and electrodes which are able to create a specifically shaped con-figuration of electric and magnetic fields that can trap ions, suspending them in space away from the trap walls. To a non-scientist I usually describe my thesis work as being an attempt to simulate the motion of a ping-pong ball in a room whose walls and floor are made of fans. We know there are certain electric and magnetic forces (the breeze from the fans) acting on the ion (ping-pong ball) at any time, and we also know how those forces change as the ion moves. This allows us to calculate the ion’s motion accurately and track its movement over time through the trapping fields."

How did you choose your mentor, and what do you recommend students interested in starting an HITM project look for in a mentor?

"I was introduced to Dr. Myers initially by another mentor of mine, Dr. Yuko Hori. I worked for Dr. Myers in his lab for around a year before we decided on the Honors in the Major project. I think being engaged with professors is the best way to find a space in research or HITM work. While it is possible (and laudable) to reach out to researchers cold, many students find this daunting. Having a professor to speak to for advice is an indispensable tool for finding a good match. A good mentor is also someone who you feel comfortable with, and is invested in you. You will inevitably make mistakes and get lost during your project, and feeling comfortable reaching out for guidance is vital to the project’s long-term success. Additionally if a researcher doesn’t have time for you, it puts much more pressure on you to manage the communications between you, which could be burdensome. Dr. Myers was fortunately deeply invested in me and very communicative and helpful. I felt comfortable reaching out to him, and it was the key to having a successful project through the nightmare of COVID."

What are your plans after you graduate from FSU?

"I’ve accepted a job at a software company working in enterprise sales. I want to take some time after COVID and graduating to reassess what my long term plans are and dip my toe into the private sector for a while."

Image of Dr. Edmund Myers, Honors in the Major Thesis Director (Physics) for James McAuley. Professor is older with metal rimmed glasses. Bald on top with dark gray hair on sides. He is smiling.

Edmund Myers, Ph.D.


Thesis Director

Questions for the mentor:

What motivates or inspires you to mentor undergraduate students?

"I really enjoy explaining the research I do (on precision measurements with ions trapped in a Penning ion trap) to smart and interested students. I also enjoy sharing some of the science and technology behind the experiments – this is interesting stuff that can broaden and deepen the background of any STEM student. But also, it is through undergraduate research projects that students find out if they are interested in pursuing a PhD (I did.) So HIM mentoring is an important part of the research education process. And, sometimes, an undergraduate can make a significant contribution to the research!"

What do you think characterizes a good mentoring relationship between student and honors thesis mentor?

"The student has to be really interested in the project and the mentor interested in helping them do it. Both need to be committed to putting in the necessary time and effort to get the work done well. But they also need to have a respect for each other’s time constraints and be able to communicate effectively."



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