Physics and Astronomy faculty are involved in a variety of research activities. Interested students should contact the appropriate faculty to inquire about research opportunities and requirements.
Astrophysics and Gravitation
Astrophysics involves understanding the nature of planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe on large-scales. Gravitation is the study of gravity on all scales. Research in our department focuses on gravitational waves and the LIGO project (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), with a focus on theoretical modeling of gravitational waves from black holes and neutron stars (Marc Favata, Shaon Ghosh), and experimental optics relevant to gravitational-wave detection (Rodica Martin), and the rapid analysis and electromagnetic follow-up of LIGO data (Shaon Ghosh). Read more about this work in the Fall 2017 CSAM Insights Magazine.
Optics is the study of how light propagates. Our experimental optics lab (Rodica Martin) focuses on studying magneto-optic effects in various materials, with applications to the construction of Faraday isolators. We are also involved in computational modeling light scattering in interferometers. These topics are directly relevant to the construction of the Advanced LIGO detector, and will also be important for the next generation of gravitational-wave interferometers.
Experimental Nuclear Physics
The nucleus at the center of the atom contains protons and neutrons. Nuclear physics concerns the composition of these particles, the forces that hold them together, and changes in their configuration via nuclear reactions. The proton and neutron are themselves composed of smaller (fundamental) particles called quarks. In our low-energy nuclear physics lab (currently under construction), Kent Leung is building components for an experiment that will measure the electric dipole moment of the neutron. That experiment (at Oak Ridge National Labs) will help test physics beyond the current Standard Model of particle physics. It will answer questions about the fundamental asymmetry between matter and antimatter in the universe, and also constrain certain theories of dark matter. Collaboration with another experiment at Duke University will measure the electric and magnetic polarizability of the neutron. These measurements will help test the theory of the strong interaction, quantum chromodynamics (QCD).
Science Education and Outreach
Science education and outreach is a significant part of our department’s activities. We are actively involved in education and outreach on behalf of LIGO, including the Sounds of Spacetime project (Marc Favata), organizing exhibit booths on gravitational-wave science, and the development of student lab activities related to interferometry and gravitational-wave detections (Martin, Favata). Other activities include the study of problem solving methodologies and the use of social media and the latest neuroscience research to improve introductory physics instruction (Dean Hamden). We also work with high school students through the Weston Science Scholars program.