Our faculty have diverse research interests. In the past few years, we have seen a number of exciting new developments and research projects in the department. These research projects span the entire range of modern physics and astronomy.
An important aspect of majoring in Physics and Astronomy is the required senior thesis. Majors are strongly encouraged to elect independent research projects, usually in conjunction with a faculty member’s research program, which may be experimental, computational or theoretical.
Recent thesis topics involving independent research have included carbon nanotubes, maskless lithography, optical tweezers, electron diffraction, computational general relativity, computational and experimental fluid dynamics, nonlinear dynamics and chaos, passive solar architecture and physics education research. Astronomy research projects have included monitoring active galactic nuclei, quasar absorption line spectroscopy, telescope instrument design, analyzing Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescope data and acquiring images of galaxies in infrared and optical wavelengths. Students may also carry out independent work earlier than the senior year as a summer research assistant or under Physics or Astronomy 199.
- Characterization of small molecules used in fundamental parity/symmetry studies. Data taken in Hanover, Germany (R. Mawhorter)
- Fluid dynamics with Bose Einstein condensates, particularly as applied to rapid (sub-millisecond) movements of certain plants and fungi. How do the morphology and physical properties of a plant enable it to move so quickly? (D. Whitaker)
- Near-earth object discovery and high-precision follow-up, telescope automation, instrumentation, and adaptive optics research (P. Choi)
- Development, testing, and evaluation of innovative computer tools for physics education; research on space-based gravitational wave detection and interpretation (T. Moore)
- Using Hubble Space Telescope images to identify and analyze tidal disruption events caused by supermassive black holes (E. Quetin)
- Optical characterization of organic semiconductor devices, including models of charge-carrier transport and the role of defects (J. Hudgings)
- Research into physics education involving the development, testing, and evaluation of innovative text materials, classroom activities, and computer tools (T. Moore)
- Fabrication and characterization of perovskite solar cells and microscopy beyond photons (D. Tanenbaum)
- Development of optical tweezer device for suspension and manipulation of small particles relevant for biophysics research (A. Kwok)
- Galaxy formation and evolution using hydrodynamical merger simulations (J. Moreno)
- Applying influence and causality to theoretically understand gravity and quantum mechanics (N. Bahreyni)
- Acoustic metamaterials for applications including subwavelength imaging and cloaking (A. Zook)
All of these investigations are ongoing, engage our students and provide them with diverse opportunities for research in their senior thesis projects, and enhance our curriculum by giving exciting cutting-edge material within advanced and introductory courses.