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 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 Augie 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, and at Princeton University.
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.
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.