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From the Department Head

Nitin Samarth

Welcome to Physics@Penn State! I am proud to belong to a department of innovative scientists, inspiring teachers, creative students, and accomplished alumni. Whether you are an alumnus, friend, prospective student or a casual visitor, I invite you to browse our website and learn about the exciting discoveries Penn State physicists are making at the frontiers of knowledge. According to a multi-year study released by the National Research Council (NRC) in 2010, we are in the top echelon (10-15) of physics departments in the United States (see the website). We also invite you to visit the Eberly College of Science website for a comprehensive overview about the NRC rankings for all departments in our college. In the latest (2018) US News rankings of graduate schools, two of our programs ranked highly: cosmology/relativity/gravity is ranked #9 and condensed matter is ranked #11. 

We also seek to attract faculty, graduate students and postdocs to join our department. If you are interested in becoming part of our community, please consult the "Jobs" tab on our web page for current opportunities.

— Nitin Samarth, George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Department Head

nsamarth [at] psu [dot] edu

Meet Our Faculty

Stephane Coutu

Stephane Coutu

I have been at Penn State since 1997 and am a professor in the Departments of Physics and of Astronomy and Astrophysics. I design and build scientific instrumentation (assorted particle detectors and readout electronics) integrated into complex payloads flown on high-altitude NASA balloons from remote locations such as Antarctica, northern Canada or the US Southwest wilderness. These include the High Energy Antimatter Telescope (HEAT), the Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM) payload, and the Cosmic Ray Electron Synchrotron Telescope (CREST). With these, I study naturally occurring high-energy particles of matter and antimatter, in an effort to identify and characterize their sources in the Galaxy. I am working on the ISS-CREAM mission to deploy a cosmic ray instrument to the International Space Station. I am also involved in the large international Pierre Auger Observatory, the world's largest detector covering an area the size of Rhode Island in western Argentina, with which the most energetic and rarest particles are studied. These experimental efforts give us glimpses into some of the most extreme and high-energy environments in the Universe since the Big Bang.


Research experience for undergraduates

The department provides many opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research. Direct research experience is exciting, and a great way to prepare for careers in science and engineering.

Wei Huang makes adjustments to a microwave-electronicassembly for a laser spectroscopy setup used in a Bose-Einstein condensationapparatus.

If you're interested in doing research, feel free to explore the research programs in the department and our Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program.

New faculty expand physics at Penn State

Our department has welcomed several new colleagues to our faculty in the past 2 years, including senior faculty members (Dr. B. S. Sathyaprakash, Elsbach Professor of Physics, Dr. Randall Mcentaffer, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Professor of Physics) and junior faculty members (Dr. Carmen Carmona, Dr. Luiz de Viveiros, and Dr. Cui-zu Chang, all Assistant Professors of Physics).  We are pleased to announce that another senior faculty member, Dr. Zhiqiang Mao, will be joining as Professor of Physics in Fall 2018. We are also delighted to announce that Dr. Venkat Gopalan, Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Dr. Roman Engel-Herbert, Associate Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, have joined our faculty on courtesy appointments. All our new faculty members look forward to mentoring physics graduate students on exciting projects in experimental condensed matter physics, gravitational wave physics, and astro-particle physics!

Zhiqiang MaoRoman Engel-HerbertVenkatraman Gopalan