Research in Physics & Astronomy


Research in the physics department, first and foremost, involves our students. Many students advance their research skills by assisting on faculty-initiated research. Opportunities are available for all students, depending on their research interests, what time of the year they want to begin research, and how much time they want to spend in the lab.

Physics Department faculty members engage in a variety of research and creative activities. Their research areas encompass optical and magneto-chemical characterization of catalysts, astrophysics and astroparticle physics, material characterization, experimental nuclear and particle physics. A faculty member studies the freak waves generated by refraction of ocean waves through regions of random currents. Other faculty run the Radio JOVE, a NASA education and outreach project that build a radio telescope and use it to gather radio signals from sources in our galaxy. Another faculty is interested in the supernovae that are associated with gamma-ray bursts to determine how bright these events are compared with other supernovae. One faculty member is working in the characterization of nanostructures and biosystems. Projects of interests include molecular recognition and cancer cells characterization. Finally, one faculty member is exploring how quarks interact to form exotic particles.

Facilities include multiuser experimental and computational laboratories. Students and faculty have access to the research facilities of the Chemistry and Physics Departments. Faculty maintain an active collaboration with researchers at Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, NYU Materials Research Science & Engineering Center through the Xavier Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials (PREM), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Synchrotron Radiation Center (SCR).

Optical Spectroscopy, and Magneto-chemical characterization of catalysts

Extremely tall waves called freak waves are much more common than previously thought. Freak waves may be generated by refraction of ocean waves through regions of random currents. These areas have a higher-than-normal probability of freak wave formation even without taking into account the nonlinearity of wave evolution. I am working with Dr. Lev Kaplan of Tulane University in looking at the effects of the nonlinearity of the wave equation on the probability of freak wave formation. My students and I run a computer simulation of the nonlinear wave equation through a field of varying currents and compile the statistics of freak wave formation. I am also trying to solve the equation analytically in certain reasonable limiting cases.

Astrophysics, Astroparticle Physics. I am currently running the Radio Jove project with Dr. Graber.  Radio JOVE is a NASA education and outreach project involving students in radio astronomy.  Students will build a radio telescope and use it to gather radio signals from Jupiter, the Sun, and other sources in our galaxy.  They will be able to collaborate online with student groups from other schools that are also involved in Radio Jove.

My research centers on the dynamic properties of magnetic ultrathin films, multilayers, and nanostructures, especially the investigation of the damping processes and coupling in these structures.  These properties are important in the information technology industry, especially the multibillion magnetic hard drive industry and the emerging technology of spintronics—electronics with spin polarized currents.  Students in my lab have the opportunity to synthesize magnetic materials, investigate their properties, and construct instruments for measuring these properties.

My research is in the area of supernovae (exploding stars). Recently, I have been interested in the supernovae that are associated with gamma-ray bursts. I determined just how bright these events are compared with other supernovae. The light that is observed from the gamma-ray burst includes contributions from multiple sources. I was able to extract only the light from the supernova and then determine its intrinsic brightness. In the process I was able to learn much more about each supernova; such as, the amount of mass ejected in the explosion and the amount of energy involved in each explosion. Currently, I am studying the light curves (change in brightness over time) for type IIL supernovae.

Material Characterization; Soft Matter Physics; Nanosystems imaging. My research interests lie at the interface of materials science, biology and engineering, particularly in the advanced characterization of nanostructures and biosystems (AFM, SEM, Raman, PFM); synthesis, fabrication and assembly of nanomaterials; mechanical and electrical propeties of nano and biomaterials; and cellular mechanics.

I am working in the field of experimental medium energy nuclear physics.  Most of my work is based on experiments conducted the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF, in Newport News, Virginia, which are exploring how quarks interact to form the protons and neutrons making up matter.  I am also exploring how quarks form exotic particles, i.e. those we do not usually see. My work is experimental, which means I am working on designing & building detectors, configuring data acquisition systems, and modelling & analyzing data using custom software.

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