Research in the department covers a wide range of fields from Bose Einstein condensation to condensed matter experiment, high energy theory, particle astrophysics and gravitational physics. Many opportunities are available for both graduate and undergraduate students, and also postdoctoral researchers.
- Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics
- Experiments in atomic and molecular physics at Penn State include: Bose Einstein condensation; earth and space-based laser-cooled atomic clocks; the structure and dynamics of atomic and molecular clusters; laser cooling and trapping of atoms; tests of fundamental symmetries; quantum computation; quantum scattering of cold atoms; and optical lattices. Research programs within the condensed matter group are currently funded by the Army Research Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the Sloan Foundation.
- Biological Physics
- The main line of inquiry of our group is the understanding of the dynamics of biological systems arising from interactions at different scales and organizational levels. Cellular function emerges from the interaction of numerous molecular components. Interactions among groups of cells determine how multi-cellular organisms develop and how tissues and organs function. Individual and population-level interactions form the basis of population biology and ecology. All these problems can seldom be solved by the reductionist method and they call for creative and interdisciplinary approaches.
- Condensed Matter
- Our condensed matter program spans a wide range of fundamental and applied phenomena, including 2D materials, artificially frustrated magnets, first principles calculations, many body theory, nanostructures, quantum fluids and solids, quantum information, spintronics, superconductivity, topological phases of matter, quantum information, thermoelectrics, and ultrafast optical processes. The program was ranked 14th in the nation in the latest (2014) U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate schools. We currently host an interdisciplinary National Science Foundation research center known as the Center for Nanoscale Science.
- Gravitational Physics & Cosmology
- The gravitational physics effort at Penn State focuses on cosmology, general relativity, gravitational wave astronomy, loop quantum gravity, and string theory. This research effort is centered in the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos. Our gravitational physics group was ranked 10th in the most recent US News & World rankings (2014).
- Particles & Fields
- The particles and fields group aims to develop a thorough understanding of fundamental interactions of the smallest constituents of matter. We work on a variety of topics in particle physics phenomenology, strong interactions, neutrino physics, quantum field theory, mathematical physics, M/superstring theory and supergravity, and their connections with astrophysics and cosmology.
- Particle Astrophysics
- At the fertile interface between particle physics and astronomy, the field of particle astrophysics explores the cosmos using particle physics techniques and the subatomic world using astronomical observations. The particle astrophysics group at Penn State is helping to design, construct and analyze the data from vast detectors spread out on the South America pampas and on the flanks of the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, buried in the South Pole icecap and under the Black Hills of South Dakota, flown from enormous balloons in Texas and the Antarctic coast, and orbiting the earth on the International Space Station. These far-flung experiments will be used to study ultrahigh energy cosmic-rays, cosmological neutrinos, cosmic antimatter, dark matter, and many other astrophysical and particle physics phenomena.
- Physics Machine Shop