Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Undergraduate majors in Physics are encouraged to become involved in the research of the faculty. Indeed, the spirit of independent research is a major part of the physical sciences in general. Some Physics majors pursue an Honors degree, and a research thesis is required in that program. Other students wish to engage in research as part of their preparation for the capstone course PHYS 4991, Physics Senior Seminar, during which a research paper must be written. The Physics Department now requires a research experience for all physics majors as part of their undergraduate degree program. Credit for undergraduate research may be earned in ASTR 301V, PHYS 306V, and PHYS 399VH.

Below are listed some of the Physics faculty who are doing research and are interested in collaborating with undergraduate majors. To learn the details of their projects, you should meet with them directly. They will be happy to learn that you may be interested in working with them.

Research Programs for Undergraduates

Investigator: Dr. Barraza-Lopez (sbarraza@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Transport of charge at the nanoscale
  • Project 2: Theory of graphene

Investigator: Dr. Huaxiang Fu (hfu@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Semiconductor nanostructures
    • The project involves studying, by computer modeling, the effects of sizes on the wavelengths and intensities of emitted light in nanometer semiconductor dots and wires.
  • Project 2: Ferroelectric and piezoelectric materials
    • The project focuses on studying and understanding the physics and mechanisms that convert electricity into mechanical energy or vice versa (i.e. generation of electricity from mechanical strain).

Investigator: Dr. William G. Harter (wharter@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Quantum and semi-classical theory of molecular rotation-vibration and nuclear spin dynamics and spectra
    • High symmetry molecules such as C60 (Buckminsterfullerene) have unusual rotational properties in gas phase and in their solid state which might be useful some day for quantum computing. In the meantime we are developing a theory of the rovibrational fine structure states for spectroscopists. Techniques involve group theory and computer simulations with recent emphasis on Fourier transform of semiclassical dynamics.
  • Project 2: Quantum wave and symmetry in superlattices
    • The quantum dynamics and symmetry properties of micro-electronic and photonic devices produced by MBE and other means are being investigated using their transmission spectra and electronic mobility. These are simulated using a number of different kinds of computer programs being developed here and results are compared to predictions derived using group representation theory. One of the goals is to show ways to produce faster and ultra-sensitive detectors, filters, spectral sources, and telecommunication devices.
  • Project 3: Quantum control theory
    • The extension of classical optimal control theory and other generalizations of variational calculus to quantum dynamics are being explored. Simulations of controlled n-level quantum systems provide the means for testing the practicality of these methods. The objective is to create extraordinary states of quantum systems like molecular rotors.

Investigator: Dr. Julia Kennefick (jkennef@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Surveys for high redshift quasars
  • Project 2: Variability studies of quasars using the NFO WebScope

Investigator: Dr. Claud H. Sandberg Lacy (clacy@uark.edu)

  • Project: Observational studies of eclipsing binary stars
    • The student will use the URSA robotic telescope or the NFO WebScope to study selected eclipsing binary stars in order to determine their orbital periods, light curves, and photometric orbital elements.

Investigator: Dr. Jiali Li (jialili@uark.edu)

In the projects described below, the undergraduate student will work with graduate students or postdoctoral associates in the lab.

  • Project 1: Nanostructure fabrication
    • This project involves photolithography on silicon wafers and ion beam sputtering techniques.
  • Project 2: Single DNA or protein analysis with a solid-state nanopore sensor
    • This project involves a single-channel recording technique and singlemolecule biophysics.

Investigator: Dr. Lin Oliver (woliver@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Pressure dependence of the glass-transition temperature of prototypic glass formers
    • This project involves determining the pressure dependence of the glass transition temperature of prototypic glass formers using temperature controlled diamond anvil cells, optical microscopy, and ruby fluorescence techniques.
  • Project 2: Light scattering study of the glass transition
    • Brillouin and/or depolarized light scattering studies of metastable liquid glass formers under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature will be performed. This would be a good honors thesis.
  • Project 3: Protein denaturation
    • This project will involve dynamic light scattering studies of protein solutions at high pressure. It would be good for students interested in crossdisciplinary research.

Investigator: Dr. Gregory J. Salamo (salamo@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Nonlinear Optics
    • Measurement of the nonlinear optical properties of semiconductors as their size is varied from microscale to nanoscale.
  • Project 2: Bio-physics
    • (a) Measurements designed to discover the mechanism for the opening and closing of biological pores and their function
    • (b) Measurement of the performance of different parts of a drug delivery system to fight cancer and other diseases
  • Project 3: Nanoscience
    • Measurement of the size, shape, composition, and organization of nanoscale structures as a function of growth parameters

Investigator: Dr. Woodrow Shew (woodrowshew@gmail.com)

  • Project 1: Network topology of turtle brain blood vessels
    • Without oxygen the brain of a mammal quickly fails to operate. Accordingly, the network of blood vessels which distribute oxygen through the mammalian brain appears to be optimized to deliver oxygen in a reliable, robust way. Turtles, on the other hand have a remarkable ability to survive long periods with very little oxygen. In this project, we will use a two-photon microscope to investigate whether this ability to survive without oxygen is reflected in the network topology of turtle brain blood vessels. We will directly measure turtle vascular topology and ask whether and why it is different than found in mammals.
  • Project 2: Criticality in the turtle brain
    • Recent experiments suggest that mammalian cerebral cortex operates in a dynamical regime near criticality. It has been argued that this type of brain dynamics may require the network of neurons to be organized in a specific way that is found only in a particular part of mammalian cortex, called Layer 2/3. Layer 2/3 does not exist in turtles. Here we will measure the dynamics of turtle cortex using micro-electrodes, searching for evidence of criticality. The results will narrow down the list of possible underlying mechanisms of critical cortex dynamics.

Investigator: Dr. Surendra Singh (ssingh@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Interference and diffraction of optical vortex beams
  • Project 2: Polarization and focusing properties of laser beams
  • Project 3: Light scattering from bio-molecules using photon correlation Spectroscopy
  • Project 4: Quantum statistics of light generated in nonlinear optics

Investigator: Dr. Gay Stewart (gstewart@uark.edu)

  • Project: Physics education

Investigator: Dr. John C. Stewart (johns@uark.edu)

  • Project: Physics education
    • My research focuses on understanding how knowledge of physics is acquired at a very detailed level, what information is really present in an introductory physics course, and how real courses deliver this information to students. My goal is to create a system of educational engineering to iteratively improve all educational offerings. Projects for students include: (1) analysis of class data to build a statistical model of successful student behavior, (2) building new class components to address weaknesses identified by analysis, and (3) sampling diverse instructional materials to augment our model of possible conceptual productions.

Investigator: Dr. Jak Tchakhalian (jchakhal@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Magneto-transport properties of novel correlated oxide nanomaterials
    • The project involves measurements with our new cryogenic system to obtain electronic properties of nanomaterials which we fabricate in our nanolab.
  • Project 2: Preparation and characterization of atomically flat oxide surfaces

Investigator: Dr. Paul Thibado (thibado@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Low temperature (down to 4 K) STM experiments of electron spin injection
  • Project 2: Electrical transport experiments on MBE grown material
  • Project 3: General lab assistant (literature searching, photo-coping, small building projects, etc.)

Investigator: Dr. Reeta Vyas (rvyas@uark.edu)

  • Project 1: Higher order gaussian modes of lasers
  • Project 2: Nonclassical effects in parametric oscillators
  • Project 3: Photon statistics of microcavity lasers

Investigator: Dr. Min Xiao (mxiao@uark.edu)

In most of these projects, the undergraduate student will work with graduate students or postdoctoral associates in the lab. For motivated and qualified undergraduate students, financial support is available.

  • Project 1: Interactions between semiconductor diode lasers and multi-level atoms
  • Project 2: Physical properties of nanoparticles, especially nanoparticles inside a microcavity