UMW News Bureau"On the Rocks," a speaker series organized by the University of Montana Western science and mathematics departments, will kick off a new season at 4 p.m. in Block Hall, Tuesday, Sept. 8. Montana Western Professor of Physics Dr. Craig Zaspel will present “Vortex Formation in Nanocontacts and Spruce Budworm Populations.” [caption id="attachment_2592" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Spruce budworm moth. Photo courtesy of Entomart."][/caption] When pondering the life cycles of spruce budworm populations, vortex formations in nanocontacts may not necessarily come to mind, but Montana Western Environmental Science Professor of Physics Dr. Craig Zaspel will reveal a connection at this season’s first presentation of the “On the Rocks” science and math speaker series. In his presentation, “Vortex Formation in Nanocontacts and Spruce Budworm Populations,” Zaspel will be explaining similarities in the mathematical descriptions of these two very different phenomena. Spruce budworms lay eggs in conifer needles and burrow into the bark of trees or lichen growing on trees where they stay dormant over the winter. In the spring the budworms begin eating new foliage on conifers. Multiple budworm infestations in a conifer can kill the tree. “Everyone can relate to insect population outbreaks, whereas nanoelectronics is much more difficult to visualize,” Zaspel explains. “Since the mathematical description of vortex formation and budworm populations is similar, I thought that it would be interesting to present these similarities in this talk.” The “On the Rocks” series — now in its 15th year — is organized by Montana Western’s science and math departments. Doctor Craig Zaspel earned his Ph.D. in physics and condensed matter theory from Montana State University and did post-doctoral work at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. He is an internationally-known scholar in the area of nonlinear excitations in magnets and microwave pulses in magnetic thin films. Doctor Zaspel has received several National Science Foundation grants and published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. “Vortex Formation in Nanocontacts and Spruce Budworm Populations” will begin at 4 p.m. in Block Hall, Tuesday, Sept. 8. All other “On the Rocks” presentations will be on the third Monday of each block at 4 p.m.