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. Montclair State students are also eligible to apply for the Science Honors Innovation Program (SHIP), which funds a two-year research experience for undergraduates. In addition to presenting at national and international conferences, our students showcase their work at Montclair State’s annual Student Research Symposium.
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), and experimental optics relevant to gravitational-wave detection (Rodica Martin). Read more about this work in the Fall 2017 CSAM Insights Magazine. Other recent areas of interest include ionospheric response modeling (Mary Lou West).
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.
Fluid Mechanics and Complex Systems
Fluid mechanics is the study of the behavior of liquid and gases, including their interaction with immersed particles and boundaries. Complex systems are physical systems with many interacting components; they often display nonlinear or emergent behavior that makes them more interesting than the sum of their parts. Department research in this area is led by Ashwin Vaidya and focuses on problems of self-organization and pattern formation, with an emphasis on applying techniques from classical mechanics and thermodynamics. Recent work also includes applications to biophysics, such as the dynamics of amyloid-beta protein aggregation (relevant to Alzheimer’s disease). Our Complex Fluids Lab houses a flow tank and other equipment to study fluid structure interaction, sedimentation and viscoelastic flows. Other CSAM faculty involved in fluids and complex system research include: Lora Billings, Eric Forgoston, Jorge Lorenzo-Trueba, and David Trubatch.
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). Working with Math Education faculty, we have studied making ‘creativity’ a central theme of math and science curricula (Ashwin Vaidya). In cooperation with the North Jersey Astronomical Group and led by Mary Lou West, we host a public telescope night during the semester (clear Thursdays, 8-9 p.m., in front of the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences/CELS). 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.