Research and Facilities

Want to see what we’re up to?

Sure, physics is considered one of the oldest sciences – but there’s still so much left to discover.

Our professors are actively involved in various fields of research, routinely recruiting students to assist in their research. Our department conducts research in the following areas: computational and theoretical physics; low dimensional and complex materials; magnetic properties of materials; physics and science education; low-dimensional structures and surfaces and more.

Learn more about our research areas.

Computational and Theoretical Physics

Computational and theoretical research focused on studying the properties of a vast variety of materials, from quantum magnets to biological and complex systems. More specifically, we study the structural, electronic, and magnetic characteristics, as well as dynamic properties of various systems, with potential practical applications in the critical areas of spintronics, quantum information and engineering, biological and complex systems, etc. Facilities include computer enhanced classrooms and an advanced computer laboratory. Students and faculty also have access to the UNI high-performance computing cluster.

Investigators: Pavel Lukashev and Ali Tabei

Low Dimensional and Complex Materials

The research concerns investigation into the electronic and structural characteristics of low dimensional and complex materials. These systems exhibit exotic phases not seen in the world of everyday standard 3D systems. The main focus is to create, characterize and model systems of interest such atomic and nanoscale wires, dots, and films to deduce both fundamental properties as well as tailor them towards eventual applications in industry. Facilities include molecular beam epitaxy, scanning tunneling microscopy, Auger spectroscopy, and electron diffraction contained within two separate ultra-high vacuum systems.

Investigator: Tim Kidd

Magnetic Properties of Materials

The objective of this research is to study and elucidate the electronic and magnetic behavior of novel disordered magnetic materials. Examples of such materials are diluted magnetic semiconductors and mechanically-milled rare-earth alloys. There is special interest in the spin-glass or spin-glass-like behavior that is commonly exhibited by these disordered materials. Measurement capabilities include ac susceptibility, dc magnetization, and resistivity, in the temperature range 4-300 K.

Investigator: Paul Shand

Physics and Science Education

The physics and science education group investigates student understanding of physics concepts and related physical phenomena, and uses the insights gained to guide instruction and curriculum development. The group also provides professional development opportunities for teachers, such as the UNI PRISMS and PRISST programs. Facilities include studio physics classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art instructional technologies, video cameras for recording interviews and classroom observations, and a computer workstation for document scanning and video processing.

Investigators: Lawrence Escalada and Jeff Morgan

Biological Physics

Biological Physics

The Physics Department has developed a strong focus on the interdisciplinary field of biological physics. This area of research merges principles of physics with complex biological systems, aiming to understand the fundamental mechanisms driving biological processes.

Biological Physics has practical applications in Medicine, healthcare and biotechnology. More importantly, research in this area contributes to our fundamental understanding of life at the molecular and cellular levels, bridging the gap between physics and biology.

We rely on computational simulations and models to predict and analyze the behavior of biological systems. This includes molecular dynamics simulations and stochastic modeling approaches.

The biological physics research is highly collaborative, involving partnerships with biologists, chemists, and mathematicians across campus and multiple institutes. This interdisciplinary approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of the complex phenomena under study.

Investigator: Ali Tabei

Low-Dimensional Structures and Surfaces

The primary research concentration of Dr. Stollenwerk has centered around low dimensional condensed matter systems. He has used low dimensional structures exhibit properties that are similar to both individual atoms as well as bulk materials.  As material dimensions shrink below 10 nanometers, quantum confinement effects become noticeable in their electronic and optical properties.  At the same time low dimensional materials are highly sensitive to the presence of disorder or impurities.  The ability to tune the electrical and optical properties of these low dimensional materials by varying their shape, size, and composition have made them useful from a practical stand point in devices such as solar cells, solid state lasers, and light emitting diodes.

Investigator: Andrew Stollenwerk