academics

Research

Where can research at Augustana take you?

Augustana's Physics faculty is immersed in research—both to stay on top of current events in the field—and to enhance learning opportunities for our students. The two most active research groups in the department are Particle Physics, Nuclear Physics and Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. Both groups involve undergraduates throughout the year and employ multiple students during the summer months.  Research is done at the College and around the country, including at the J.R. Macdonald Lab at Kansas State University,  Fermi Lab in Chicago, the Deep Underground Lab in the Black Hills, Princeton University, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Particle Physics: The newest research area in the department is led by Dr. Drew Alton. He is an active collaborator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. His research focuses on studies of the weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature. In this capacity, students have written analysis code to sort through the collision data recorded at FermiLab. 

In addition, he is laying the groundwork for collaborations on new experiments that would take place underground at Homestake Mine in Leeds, South Dakota.  As part of this work, students have traveled to Princeton University to work on detector development for the proposed Dark Matter experiment.   Dr. Alton has funding from Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, and the state of South Dakota.  

Nuclear Physics: Dr. Grau is currently an active participant in the PHENIX (Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interactions eXperiment) experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island New York. In 2012 Augustana become a fully-recognized member institution of the experiment. PHENIX is one of the two major experiments at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC, pronounced rick), the only hadronic collider in the United States. PHENIX excels at measurements of photons, electrons and muons from relativistic heavy ion collisions. Physicists, including Dr. Grau, are using these collisions to understand more about the strong nuclear force, the force that is responsible for binding protons and neutrons in a nucleus, the fundamental building blocks of all luminous matter in the universe. Dr. Grau has been a participant in PHENIX since 2001 and is familiar with and works on all aspects of the experiment from detector work to software work to data analysis.  Students who have worked with Dr. Grau have been involved in building detectors components, testing electronics, writing simulation code and analysis code used to analyze real data. Students have also participated in workshops at Brookhaven and have interacted with other undergraduates, graduates students, postdocs and faculty from many other national and international institutions. The hardware work is ideal for students interested in electrical and mechanical engineering. The software work is ideal for all undergraduates as the skills gained are important for all people in this technological age.

Dr. Grau is currently supported by the Dean of the College and the National Science Foundation. Previous funding has come from NASA.

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics: Dr. Eric Wells and his collaborators probe intra-molecular dynamics using ultra-short duration electric fields. He maintains an active collaboration with researchers at the J.R. Macdonald Laboratory, a large facility for AMO physics located on the campus of Kansas State University.  These experiments use extremely short pulses of laser light created by the Kansas Light Source to manipulate molecular processes.  The broad field of study is known as coherent control. 

The group also uses collisions between molecules and ions to initiate and study molecular dynamics.  This work has been done both at KSU and with the group of Allen Landers at Auburn University.  In recent years, the AMO group has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, and NASA.

In addition, Dr. Engebretson’s field is condensed matter physics, specifically tunneling in niobium films. Dr. Vander Lugt works on problems in chaos and acoustics; he has also spent considerable time developing physics courses for non-majors, including Astronomy and the History of Science.

Read more on research and other opportunities for essential experience off campus.