With its world-renowned faculty and state-of-the-art facilities, the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy combines the best aspects of a top research university with the more intimate learning environment typical of small liberal arts colleges. Through small classes and numerous opportunities to participate in research, students gain a solid foundation in the physics and astronomy areas of their choosing.
The department has four primary areas of focus: condensed matter physics, particle physics, astronomy and astrophysics, and plasma physics. A flexible curriculum, with separate BA and BS degree programs, accommodates students with post-graduation aspirations as diverse as graduate study, medical or law school, teaching, or technological careers. Both undergraduate and graduate courses are designed to provide a core of basic subjects at appropriate levels, which then lead to courses in a variety of more specialized topics.
Areas of Focus
Condensed Matter Physics
The condensed matter physics research in the department is focused on studies of magnetism, critical phenomena, transport properties, pattern formation, nonequilibrium processes, artificially structured solids, low dimensional solids, heavy fermion systems, low temperature physics, neutron diffusion, high Tc superconductivity, complex fluids, and disordered systems.
In recent years, the program has involved studies of nanostructured materials, magnetic and superconducting multilayers, granular metals and metal superlattices, quasi 1-dimensional magnetic systems, heavy fermion systems, and the families of new high Tc oxide superconductors. Techniques used in these studies involve LEED and Auger electron spectroscopy, synchrotron x-ray scattering, He3 -He4 dilution refrigeration, neutron diffraction, magnetotransport measurements, magnetic susceptibility, vibrating sample magnetometry, SQUID magnetometry, ferromagnetic resonance, synchrotron radiation, X-ray and electron diffraction spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. A molecular beam epitaxy system and high-rate sputtering systems, in addition to single-crystal growth are used for sample fabrication.
The particle physics/high energy physics group engages in experimental programs to investigate the behavior of elementary particles in strong, electromagnetic, and weak interactions. These experiments are generally conducted at the National Laboratories within the United States, which have particle accelerators, or at similar facilities in other parts of the world. The experimental group conducts research at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN as part of the CMS Collaboration. The group is involved in the Higgs analysis and in searches for new physics, particularly those involving very heavy new particles. The theory group studies problems in formal field theory and string theory, phenomenological issues, models for new physics beyond the Standard Model, and connections between particle physics and astrophysics and cosmology.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
While the department does not offer an undergraduate degree in astronomy, it does offer a variety of courses and research opportunities that lay the groundwork for graduate studies in astronomy or astrophysics. The best way to become an astronomer or an astrophysicist is to start with a solid foundation in physics. Many students who go on to graduate school enroll in astronomy and astrophysics doctoral programs. The research topics pursued within the astrophysics group cover the entire range of the field, from cosmology to solar system studies. Theoretical work, observational work (from both ground-based and space-based observatories), and new-instrument development can all be found here.
In addition, the Center for Astrophysical Sciences provides administrative, managerial, and technical support to related research. Intellectual life in the Baltimore astrophysical community is greatly enhanced by the close ties and collaborative research projects between the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of the Hubble Space Telescope program, located just across the street.
The plasma spectroscopy program has grown out of the astrophysics research. Under grants from the Department of Energy, the Plasma Spectroscopy Group develops far ultraviolet and soft X-ray spectroscopic instrumentation for the diagnostic of magnetic fusion energy (MFE) experiments and applies it to the study of high temperature plasmas. The research covers topics central to the fusion plasma physics, like magneto-hydrodynamic stability, particle and energy transport, as well as atomic physics topics, like the spectroscopy of the highly ionized species relevant to these plasmas.