Virginia Tech

Department of Physics

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Robeson Hall (MC 0435)
850 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-6544
(540) 231-7511 (fax)

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Research Specialties and Staff

Research Specialties and Staff

Virginia Tech

Specialties for Degree Program

Research specialty Degree type
(Final degree/Enroute to PhD)
Applied Physics Experimental Both
Astronomy None Final-degree
Astrophysics Experimental Both
Atmosphere, Space Physics, Cosmic Rays None Final-degree
Atomic, Molecular, & Optical Physics Experimental Both
Chemical Physics Both Both
Condensed Matter Physics Both Both
Electromagnetism None Final-degree
Energy Sources & Environment None Final-degree
Engineering Physics/Science Experimental Final-degree
Fluids, Rheology None Both
Low Temperature Physics Both Both
Materials Science, Metallurgy Experimental Both
Mechanics Theoretical Both
Nuclear Physics Both Both
Optics Experimental Both
Particles and Fields Both Both
Physics and other Science Education Theoretical Both
Physics of Beams Experimental Both
Plasma and Fusion None Final-degree
Polymer Physics/Science Both Both
Relativity & Gravitation Theoretical Enroute-to-PHD
Statistical & Thermal Physics Both Both

Departmental Research and Staff


Condensed Matter/Statistical Physics

Theoretical investigations of a wide range of systems, both in thermal equilibrium and driven far from equilibrium, are being carried out using both analytical techniques and computational approaches. Research interests include phase transitions, critical phenomena, electronic, transport, and optical properties of a variety of physical systems. Examples include universal properties and scaling behavior in magnetic systems, topological matter, structural phase transitions, boson localization, driven diffusive systems, branching, and annihilating random walks, vortex transport and flux pinning in superconductors, chemical reactions, population dynamics, and percolation problems. Research is also carried out on electronic, transport, and optical properties of materials, interfaces, semiconductor heterostructures, molecular devices, biological systems, and ultracold quantum gases. Analytical approaches include classical Landau-Ginzburg theory as well as modern techniques such as coherent-state path-integrals and field theoretic renormalization group analysis are used to study problems in quantum mechanics; molecular dynamics; dynamical systems; equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. Computational approaches include numerical solutions of Master and Langevin equations, Monte Carlo simulations of model systems and first-principle approaches for ground state and transport problems within density functional theory. Collaborations with numerous members in other departmTheoretical investigations of a wide range of systems, both in thermal equilibrium and driven far from equilibrium, are being carried out using both analytical techniques and computational approaches. Research interests include phase transitions, critical phenomena, electronic, transport, and optical properties of a variety of physical systems and quantum information science. Examples include univ
Edwin Barnes, Shengfeng Cheng, Sophia Economou, Kyungwha Park, Michel Pleimling, Vito Scarola, Uwe Täuber

Particles and Fields

Analysis of high-energy particle physics phenomenology and precision tests within and beyond the standard model framework. One special focus is neutrino phenomenology in close collaboration with the Center for Neutrino Physics and includes internationally well-known efforts like the development of the GLoBES software package. Neutrinos are also investigated in astrophysical settings. Also in connection to astrophysics is the study of the nature of dark matter using neutrino, gamma-ray, and other cosmic messengers. Another special focus is on string theory and M theory, especially string compactifications, supersymmetric field theories, and mathematical aspects of string theory. Research is also carried out on QCD and other gauge theories, supersymmetric, and otherwise, in three and four dimensions.
Lara Anderson, Lay Chang, James Gray, Shunsaku Horiuchi, Patrick Huber, Djordje Minic, Eric Sharpe, Tatsu Takeuchi



The group at Virginia Tech is active in extragalactic astronomy and studies of radio transients. Current extragalactic research is concerned with measuring stellar and supermassive black hole mass assembly history in galaxies from multiwavelength surveys and the observation and interpretation of mass outflow from active galactic nuclei (AGNs). This work has impact on studies of the formation of galaxies and galaxy clusters and the way these structures trace the underlying dark matter distribution. Searches for radio transients are under way in collaboration with searches for gravity wave signals (e.g., by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory). This work has impact on the study of high-energy or explosive astrophysical events (e.g., supernovae, mergers of compact objects, and the explosion of primordial black holes) and implications for work at the frontier of fundamental physics (e.g., the existence of gravitational radiation and extra-spatial dimensions). Research facilities currently used include the Hubble Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Very Large Telescope, the Long Wavelength Array (LWA), and the Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array (ETA).
Nahum Arav, Shunsaku Horiuchi, John Simonetti


Topics include biosensors using ionic self-assembled multilayers on fiber gratings; targeted delivery of functionalized nanoparticles using laser techniques in nanomedicine; nanoscale structure and dynamics of biomimetic lipid membranes, topologically tunable membranes for biosensing and biosorting applications, tailoring structural and dynamical hierarchy in polymeric systems for reliable designs of advanced functional materials; and voltametric chemical detection methods for subsecond measurements of neurotransmitters in the human brain during active decision-making. Experimental approaches include near-infrared laser techniques, self-assembly techniques, optical characterization, voltametric methods, temporally resolved fluorescence microscopy, x-ray and neutron scattering, ps-ns spectroscopy, imaging, MD simulations, and molecular biology techniques.
Rana Ashkar, James Heflin, Giti Khodaparast, Read Montague

Condensed Matter Physics

Research includes semiconductors, heterostructures, oxides, magnetic materials, polymers, self-assembled nanostructures, lithographic nanostructures, metallic nanoparticles, biological systems, new quantum states of matter, and quantum mesoscopic systems, using nonlinear optics, terahertz science, ultrafast dynamics, transport, scanning probes, and low-temperature physics techniques. Topics addressed include nonlinear optical response in self-assembled organic materials; optoelectronic applications and photovoltaics of semiconducting polymers; hierarchical structure and dynamics of soft materials; plasmonic enhancement of nonlinear optical and photovoltaic effects; spintronics; mesoscopic physics, spin physics, and quantum physics of metals, semimetals and semiconductors; magnetization dynamics in complex oxides; quantum transport, low-temperature physics, and magnetic properties; quantum and spin coherence effects in the solid state; quantum information processing architectures; nanoscience and nanofabrication techniques; energy storage and conversion; gigahertz and terahertz spectroscopy of biological systems; ultrafast dynamics of quantum systems; and nanometer-thick materials with robust spin-driven physics, with potential room-temperature applications in computing and communications technologies.
Rana Ashkar, Shengfeng Cheng, Satoru Emori, James Heflin, Jean Heremans, Giti Khodaparast, Vinh Nguyen, Hans Robinson, Victoria Soghomonian, Chenggang Tao

Neuroscience and Medical Physics

Topics include computational models of cognitive functions to gain insight into healthy and injured brain cognition and the characterization of cognitive phenotypes, both supported by magnetic resonance imaging; the use of medical physics to study sleep; the transitions between wake and sleep states in the brainstem; the interplay between sleep and stress on brain networks; multisource-multimodal data analysis methods, including but not limited to medical imaging and bioinformatics, with initial focus on prostate cancer and multiple sclerosis; development of new diffusion magnetic resonance imaging methods for assessment of brain white matter integrity; development of mobile health systems for military medics development of open source electronic health record architectures. Experimental efforts use functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, and electroencephalography. A study of interacting subjects uses new models of social exchange and uses the new technique of hyperscanning.
Alpay Özcan, Read Montague, Seong Mun, Kenneth Wong

Nuclear and Particle Physics

Much of our research in this area explores the properties of neutrinos, the primary focus of the Department’s Center for Neutrino Physics. Current experimental activities include measurement of neutrino mixing angles with the Daya Bay reactor neutrino experiment in China and with liquid-argon-based accelerator neutrino detectors, including the Short Baseline Neutrino Program at Fermilab and CERN’s ProtoDUNE SP. Faculty are involved in solar neutrino studies with Borexino and in searches for neutrinoless double beta decay with CUORE, both at Gran Sasso Underground lab in Italy. The department manages the Kimballton Underground Research Facility (KURF), a nearby low-background laboratory (1,700-foot depth), which supports VT and external experiments. Future experiments are in development to constrain sterile neutrinos and fundamental neutrino parameters (CHANDLER, NULAT, DUNE). Heavy-flavor physics (b and c quarks and tau leptons) is studied to probe CP violation and other phenomena at the Belle and Belle II experiments at KEK in Japan. Electron scattering experiments (e-Ar, QWEAK and MOLLER) are carried out at Jefferson Laboratory (Newport News, VA) to understand neutrino interactions in matter and to test the standard model using parity-violating scattering experiments. The department has laboratory space and machine/electronic shop support for significant equipment contributions to our experiments.
Jonathan Link, Camillo Mariani, Thomas O'Donnell, Leo Piilonen, Mark Pitt, R. Vogelaar

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