Research areas

Faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy pursue vigorous research programs in several subfields of physics and astronomy.

Dedicated physics undergraduates may participate in cutting-edge research projects with a faculty mentor through our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Applied physics and optics

Applied physics is the application of the science of physics to helping human beings and solving their problems. It differs from engineering because engineers solve well-defined problems. Applied physicists use physics or conduct physics research to develop new technologies or solve engineering problems.

Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties


Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that employs the principles of physics and chemistry to ascertain the nature of the astronomical objects, rather than their positions or motions in space.

Atomic physics

Atomic (atom) physics is a field of physics that involves investigation of the structures of atoms, their energy states, and their interactions with other particles and electromagnetic radiation.

Biomedical physics

Biomedical physics deals with applications of physics to questions of biology and medicine. It is an interdisciplinary field of science that involves the application of subspecialties of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer sciences for the growth and development of medical science and healthcare.

Condensed-matter and material physics

Condensed-matter physics is a discipline that treats the thermal, elastic, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties of solid and liquid substances. Material physics is the use of physics to describe the physical properties of materials. It is a synthesis of physical sciences such as chemistry, solid mechanics, solid state physics, and materials science.

Nuclear physics

Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies atomic nuclei and their constituents and interactions. Discoveries in nuclear physics have led to applications in many fields such as nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging, industrial and agricultural isotopes, ion implantation in materials engineering, and radiocarbon dating in geology and archaeology.

High energy particle physics

Particle physics is the study of the fundamental subatomic particles, including both matter (and antimatter) and the carrier particles of the fundamental interactions as described by quantum field theory. This branch of physics is concerned with structure and forces at this level of existence and below.

The faculty gratefully acknowledge current and past support for research by the following funding agencies.

Funding agencies