Tartan grad receives esteemed Leroy Apker Award

Tartan and U of M graduate Michael Veit won the prestigious Leroy Apker Award in 2014. He is currently pursuing a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. (submitted photo)
Tartan and U of M graduate Michael Veit won the prestigious Leroy Apker Award in 2014. He is currently pursuing a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. (submitted photo)

Oakdale-native and 2009 Tartan High School graduate Michael Veit made history by being named the University of Minnesota’s first recipient of the prestigious Leroy Apker Award for undergraduate work in physics.

Veit, 24, graduated summa cum laude from the U in 2014 with degrees in both physics and mathematics and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in applied physics at Stanford University in California.

“The Apker is the most distinguished award recognizing excellence in undergraduate research in physics in this country,” said Serge Rudaz, director of the U’s honors program and physics professor. “We are incredibly proud of Michael’s achievement, which reflects brightly on the university, its school of physics, and its honors program.”

By winning the award, Veit received a $5,000 prize he says will be used to pay down his mounting student loans. The U of M will also receive $5,000 to support future undergraduate research.

“I was extremely happy. It’s a huge honor,” Veit says. “After meeting the other finalists I was shocked. They are an incredible group of people with a lot of very interesting research projects; any one of which could have been chosen for [the Leroy Apker Award].”

Veit’s honors thesis, which won him the award, studied transport measurements in a cuprate superconductor. He says the cuprates he worked with have a relatively high superconducting transition temperature of minus 150 degrees Celsius. The benefit, Veit explains, is that the cuprates do not have to be cooled nearly as low as other, more conventional superconductors to become superconducting.

“The idea is when you are dealing with electricity there is resistance, which causes heat and with that you lose energy,” he says. “If you cool down superconductors enough the resistance is zero.”

Veit was a member of a research group led by professor Martin Greven at the U, who says Veit is a “highly gifted young scientist” and described his scholarly accomplishment as being “truly extraordinary.”

Greven says the crystal structures Veit grew for the superconductor are particularly desirable for experimental study “ due to their high superconducting transition temperature and relative structural simplicity.”

The professor says Veit used his crystals in a “remarkable” array of experiments, mainly charge transport and thermoelectric power, but also in synchrotron X-ray scattering and neutron scattering. Additionally, Greven says, Veit’s crystals are measured by several scientists from around the world and have earned him co-authorship in numerous scientific publications.

Greven says it was a pleasure to have Veit in his research group and says he was “delighted” when he heard Veit had received the Leroy Apker Award.

“Mike is a team player, very friendly, diligent and reliable,” he says. “He has a broad range of intellectual interests that include entomology and mathematics, and he has contributed a considerable amount of his time to volunteer work.”

Veit’s parents, Debbie and Paul Veit, say they don’t know where their son’s tremendous aptitude for science came from; both have careers in unrelated fields.

“His dad has said to me, ‘If you meet his real father some day, let me know,’” Debbie says with a laugh.

Tartan math teacher Jan Churchill remembers Veit well from his days at the high school and says she couldn’t be happier for her former student, for whom she wrote a letter of recommendation to the University of Minnesota.

“He was both a student of mine and a very active and wonderful leader in our High Schools Against Cancer group,” she says. “I have very fond memories of him... he is just an exceptional young man in so many ways.”

Veit’s interest in physics started back at Tartan.

“I think what fascinated me most was how physics deals with basic rules of nature. It’s interesting how it can be applied to other things,” he says. “There’s a bridge between science and the physical world and day-to-day life.”

He says discovery is what is most appealing about conducting scientific research.

“You have a guess as to what will happen, but are often surprised, and it’s that surprise that you look for,” he says.

After completing his Ph.D. studies at Stanford, Veit says he would like to stay in the academic arena as a physics professor.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here