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UT Dallas Celebrates Founders Day Virtually with Contest, Giveaways
Physics Students Test Age of Time Capsule ‘Clock’

Biology senior Iqbal Matebah won a Founders Day contest on Instagram Reels for best Whoosh video.

UT Dallas’ annual celebration of Founders Day went virtual this year.

The University community took part in the day’s festivities by submitting photographs for a photo mosaic and competing in a video contest for best Whoosh.

Since 2014, the University community has honored founders Eugene McDermott, J. Erik Jonsson and Cecil H. Green and their vision for UT Dallas. It’s a day for reflecting on where UT Dallas started and commending its growth and successes since.

More than 650 faculty, staff and students took part in the photo mosaic, which replaced the annual group photo this year. Participants were offered the 2020 commemorative T-shirt and entered into a drawing for a limited-edition Temoc statue.

Biology senior Iqbal Matebah won the best Whoosh video contest on Instagram Reels and took home a bag full of prizes.

For more information on this year’s and past celebrations, see the Founders Day website.


Founders Day 2020 Videos

The Founders’ Vision

A Founders Day Message from UT Dallas Faculty and Staff


Physics Students Test Age of Time Capsule ‘Clock’

Students in Dr. Jason Slinker’s Physical Measurements Laboratory course in the Department of Physics took a page from The University of Texas at Dallas’ history to complete a recent class assignment.

Alex Stafford, a physics senior, used a gamma-ray spectrometer to determine the age of a wafer of cesium-137 – a cesium clock – that had been included in a time capsule buried in the foundation of the Founders Building at UT Dallas when it was dedicated in 1963. The capsule was unearthed and displayed at the 2019 Founders Day event.

Alex Stafford, a physics senior, set out to date a wafer of cesium-137 – a cesium clock – that had been included in a time capsule buried in the foundation of the Founders Building when it was dedicated in 1963. The time capsule was unearthed and displayed last fall at the 2019 Founders Day event.

Stafford was present in person in the student lab – located in the new Sciences Building – to carry out the experiment, while his teammates Cfir Boim, a physics junior, and Arjun Khurana, a computer science senior, took part virtually.

Stafford used a standard technique in the physical measurements lab called gamma-ray spectroscopy to compare the signal strength of the radioactive decay of the time capsule cesium source with that of a known cesium sample. The standard sample and the time capsule sample were both prepared at the same initial radioactivity of 1 microcurie.

The gamma-ray detector involved a scintillator, which converts gamma rays into photons, a photomultiplier tube to record the photons, and a digital spectrometer for discerning the intensity and energy of the signals.

Physics student Alex Stafford placed a wafer of cesium-137 into a gamma-ray spectroscopy apparatus in an experiment to determine the sample’s age.

Ideally the experiment should have determined that the wafer is about 57 years old. The students’ final answer was 46.2 years, which is about 20% off from the true age of the clock.

“There were several sources of error,” said Slinker, associate professor of physics in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “First, our standard source was provided with 20% uncertainty, and the ‘unknown’ sample the students dated was provided with 10% uncertainty. The samples were also of different thicknesses and shapes, which can introduce error when comparing.”

As part of the “Physical Measurements Laboratory” class, which is an advanced physics course, students are asked to “go beyond” the standard experiment.

“This rare opportunity allowed our emerging physicists to not just go beyond our standard protocol, but also to connect to a different era altogether,” Slinker said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.