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Graduate Programs in Physics and Astronomy
The department offers a program of coursework and research leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics. Approximately 48 graduate students are enrolled in the Physics department, supported by research and teaching assistantships and fellowships.
For Graduate Students
The department of physics has concentrated its research activities within several fields of physics, with the result that a number of projects are available in each area. Current departmental research activities include the following:
Condensed matter physics. Areas of interest include the optical and electronic properties of defects in semiconductors and insulators, quantum phenomena in semiconductor devices, collective dynamics of disordered solids, structural phase transitions in ferroelectrics and superconducting crystals, theory of quantum charge transport in nanotubes and single molecule systems, physics of nano devices.
Atomic and molecular physics. Research topics include atomic and molecular spectroscopy and collision processes. Recent work has addressed velocity-changing collisions, diffusion, energy-pooling collisions, charge exchange, fine structure mixing, light-induced drift and radiation trapping.
Nonlinear Optics and Photonics. Research topics include nonlinear light-matter interaction that enable the control of light with light, four-wave mixing, phase conjugation, resonant Brillouin scattering, ferroelectric domain patterning for quasi phase matching, waveguides, photonic crystals, holey and other specialty fibers, and the application of photonics to biological systems.
Plasma physics. Computational studies of magnetically confined toroidal plasmas address anomalous thermal and particle transport, large scale instabilities, and radiofrequency heating. Laboratory studies address collisional and collisionless phenomena of supercritical laser-produced plasmas.
Statistical physics. Investigation is underway of nonequilibrium fluctuations in gases, chaotic transitions and 1/f dynamics, light-scattering spectroscopy, colloidal suspensions, the nonlinear dynamics of granular particles, and pattern formation in nonequilibrium dissipative systems, including the kinetics of phase transitions and spatiotemporal chaos.
Soft Condensed Matter and Biological Physics. Current research topics include both the experimental and theoretical studies of complex fluids including biological polymers, colloids, and biological cells and tissues. Laser tweezers, Raman scattering, photoluminescence and advanced 3-D optical imaging techniques are integrated for investigating the structures and dynamical properties of these systems. Theoretical studies focus on the kinetics of phase transitions, including the crystallization of globular and membrane proteins and also the modeling of interactions of proteins and nanotubes.
Complex fluids. Polymers in aqueous solutions, colloidal suspensions, and surfactant solutions are investigated using techniques such as “laser tweezers,” video-enhanced microscopy, and laser light scattering. Areas of interest include the structures of polymers at liquid-solid interfaces and microrheology of confined macromolecules. Recent work addresses systems of biological significance.
Computational physics. Several of the above areas involve the use of state-of-the-art computers to address large-scale computational problems. Areas of interest include atom-atom collisions, simulations of tokamak plasmas, the statistical behavior of ensembles of many particles, the calculation of electronic wave functions for molecules and solids, and the multi-scale modeling of nano-bio systems.
Candidates for advanced degrees normally will have completed, before beginning their graduate studies, the requirements for a bachelor’s degree with a major in physics, including advanced mathematics beyond differential and integral calculus. Students lacking the equivalent of this preparation will make up deficiencies in addition to taking the specified work for the degree sought.
At least eight semester hours of general college physics using calculus are required for admission to all 200- and 300-level courses. Additional prerequisites for individual courses are noted in the course descriptions. Admission to 400-level courses generally is predicated on satisfactory completion of corresponding courses in the 200- and 300-level groups or their equivalent.