Physics, Applied Physics & Astronomy

Experimental—Optical Physics

Research in optical physics covers a wide range of activities related to photons and their interaction with various materials. Experimental and theoretical research is ongoing to provide innovative solutions to today’s problems in both fundamental and application. The goals are the development of novel nanoelectronic and nanophotonic devices, creative solutions for homeland security, renewable energies, biological and biomedical investigations, solar harvesting, and smart lighting.


Current research addresses theoretical and computational aspects of dynamics, and equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics of biomolecular systems. The objectives are to understand the structure, dynamics, stability and function of biomolecules from physical principles. Protein folding, self-assembly, binding, and dynamics are important for understanding how proteins work and how they interact with other biomolecules. Knowledge gained from this research has applications in biotechnology, drug design, and biomaterials.


Current research focuses on determining the location of dark matter in the Milky Way.  We perform n-body simulations of the tidal disruption of dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way halo, using MilkyWay@home, a 0.5 PetaFLOPS volunteer computing platform built in-house. We compare the simulations to actual Milky Way data to determine the best parameters for the simulations, thus constraining the amount and distribution of dark matter in the halo.


The Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy prepares students to contribute to new concepts and technologies through innovative teaching methods that combine student-faculty interactions, computer-based education, and “hands-on” experience in modern laboratories.



Enriching the Foundation in Physics Beyond a Bachelor’s Degree

A master's degree is becoming increasingly valuable. A master’s degree in physics enables students to round out their educations before embarking on their professional career. Accelerated master's degree programs save the cost and study time of graduate admission tests, application fees, and extra courses.


Astronomy and related fields are at the forefront of science and technology; answering fundamental questions and driving innovation.  The study of astronomy contributes to technology, economy and society by constantly pushing for instruments, processes and software that are beyond our current capabilities.


Contribute to new concepts and technologies

The physics department has a vigorous graduate program with approximately 60 students working toward M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Graduate students develop flexible individual programs of study and research in one or more of the available research areas.



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