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

Current research includes: Spin-based quantum computation; Biological and synthetic polymers, nanoparticles, nanocomposites, and membranes; Quantum optics and quantum information with a range of physical systems; Theoretical and computational studies of electronic, magnetic, and transport properties of spin-orbit-coupled nanostructures; Out-of-equilibrium dynamical behavior of complex systems; Graphene, the fractional quantum Hall effect, composite fermions, quantum dots, quantum computing, and ultracold atoms in optical lattices; Statistical mechanics of flux lines in superconductors.
Edwin Barnes, Shengfeng Cheng, Sophia Economou, Cihan Kaplan, 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, Ian Shoemaker, 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


Current research includes: Nanoscale structure and dynamics in biomimetic membranes; Topographically nanostructured lipid membranes; Hierarchal structure and dynamics in polymer nanocomposites; Applications of statistical physics to biological problems; the interplay between the material composition, dynamics, form, and emergent function in living systems using theory and simulations and thereby guide the synthesis of analogous biomimetic materials. 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

Current research includes: the investigation of novel materials through light-matter interactions, using advanced optical techniques; quantum coherence and spin coherence, spintronics, nanoscale electronic and optical devices, low-dimensional materials, and quantum and correlated-electron materials;synthesizing novel materials systems, characterizing their structure and electrical properties, and making proof-of concept systems and devices, e.g. battery cells and ultracapacitors, to study the electrical energy storage capabilities; the dynamics of electrons confined in very tiny semiconductor structures and dynamics of biological molecules through Terahertz spectroscopy; Optical and quantum mechanical properties of metal and semiconductor nanostructures; synthesis of nanoscale thin-film magnetic materials; pure spin current transport and magnetization dynamics.
Rana Ashkar, Satoru Emori, James Heflin, Jean Heremans, Giti Khodaparast, Vinh Nguyen, Hans Robinson, Victoria Soghomonian

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.
Marie Boer, Jonathan Link, Camillo Mariani, Thomas O'Donnell, Leo Piilonen, Mark Pitt, R. Vogelaar

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