The physics department offers several levels of research courses, and summer research positions are often available. Our research programs cover a wide range of physics and astronomy, including significant interdisciplinary work. This research is supported by the NSF, Research Corporation, NASA, and other funding agencies.
Students who gain research experience at Trinity are also strong candidates for national and international summer research programs, and our students have worked at various U.S. locations and in other countries including Australia and Germany. These research experiences often lead to co-authorship on publications and give our students a strong advantage when applying to graduate school, as evidenced by their success in gaining acceptance to top Ph.D. programs, including those at Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, and the University of Texas.
Read more about faculty research labs below.
Kelvin Cheng is establishing both a computational biophysics lab, including supercomputer access, and an experimental biophysics lab for single molecule spectroscopy, all to pursue his molecular dynamics studies of protein misfoldings implicated in neurodegenerative diseases.
David Hough has a computing facility for reduction and analysis of astronomical data obtained with radio telescopes like the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Long Baseline Array. He and his students make images of relativistic jets in distant quasars to test physical theories of these objects.
Gordon MacAlpine has a computing facility for reduction and analysis of astronomical data obtained with large optical telescopes like the McDonald Observatory. MacAlpine and his students study the Crab Nebula, which is the supernova remnant from a star that exploded in the year 1054.
Nirav Mehta has established a lab for computational physics to pursue theoretical advances in our understanding of quantum few-body systems, e.g., a system of four ultracold atoms.
Daniel Spiegel has a pattern formation laser lab in which he and his students have worked on two types of experiments. The first type involves electroconvection, which is a kind of pattern formed by some liquid crystals with a few Volts across them. The second type uses laser light to measure molecular diffusion. The basic idea is that laser interference fringes can be used to create a periodic pattern of long-lived excited states in a liquid. The pattern acts as a "temporary diffraction grating" for a different laser beam. As the diffraction grating washes out due to molecular diffusion, the diffracted light is reduced at a rate that tells us how fast the molecules in the liquid are diffusing.
Jennifer Steele runs nanolab facilities that house a wet chemistry lab, which supports microcontact printing techniques and thin film deposition. Both atomic force and optical microscopes are available for sample characterization, and optical set-ups for UV-VIS and fluorescence spectroscopy as well as reflection and transmission measurements are available for optical characterizations. She and her students also use the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network labs at the University of Texas at Austin for portions of their research.
Dennis Ugolini's lab has a vacuum chamber and apparatus for measuring electric charge on the optics in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). The vacuum chamber (below, left) can reach a millionth of a torr, or about one-billionth of an atmosphere. A Kelvin probe sensitive to dozens of electrons per square millimeter (below, right) is used to map out the charge on the LIGO mirrors. Ugolini and his students work on techniques to measure this charge and remove it without damaging the optics. He also travels to the LIGO site in Louisiana to operate the interferometer as he and his LIGO colleagues attempt to make the first detection of feeble gravitational waves predicted by Einstein.