Members of the Physics Department maintain active research programs in observational astronomy, particle physics, quantum computing, experimental condensed matter physics, astrophysics, biomedical optics, spectroscopy, and solar magnetohydrodynamics.

Physics student Jacob Thompson, here with Professor Paul Hess,  presents a poster at the annual meeting of the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in June 2022.
Physics student Jacob Thompson, here with Professor Paul Hess,  presents a poster at the annual meeting of the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in June 2022.

Students obtain research experience through credit-bearing projects during the school year and through paid internships during the summer months. For some students, research evolves into the senior project required of all physics majors.

Many student-faculty research collaborations culminate in a journal publication, a conference presentation, or a presentation at the Student Research Symposium in April. Students interested in learning more about the research opportunities in physics and astronomy at Middlebury should consult the physics faculty research below.

    Faculty Research

    Members of the Department of Physics at Middlebury College maintain active research programs in the areas described below.

    Prof. Michael E. Durst

    Biomedical Optics Lab: Prof. Durst uses nonlinear optics and biomedical imaging to look deep through biological tissue without making an incision. Ultrafast pulsed lasers penetrate scattering samples and create high resolution three-dimensional images through multiphoton microscopy, temporal focusing, and photothermal imaging. Research Website

    Prof. Eilat Glikman

    Astrophysics Lab: Prof. Glikman studies quasars and their role in the formation and evolution of galaxies. Prof. Glikman’s focus is on dust-reddened quasars, an elusive population that represents a transitional phase in the evolution of active galaxies. Prof. Glikman also studies quasars at high redshifts to understand black hole growth in the early universe. Research Website  

    Prof. Anne Goodsell

    Cold Atomic Physics Lab: Prof. Goodsell studies cold atoms in magneto-optical traps, where the resonant interaction between light and individual atoms in a gas make the atoms stop in midair. Prof. Goodsell and students working with her are preparing to study how cold atoms are influenced by external electric fields. Prof. Goodsell also plans to investigate the forces that affect atoms or ions near solid surfaces. Research Website

    Prof. Noah Graham

    Theoretical and Computational Physics: Prof. Graham’s research focuses on Casimir forces, which arise from quantum-mechanical fluctuations of charges and fields at distance scales relevant to nanotechnology. He is also interested in applications of high-performance computing, drawing on his experience in the software industry as a research scientist at Dragon Systems (now part of Nuance Communications). Research Website

    Prof. Chris Herdman

    Computational Quantum Matter and Information: Prof. Herdman studies the quantum mechanical properties of matter and information using computational and theoretical methods. At very low temperatures, quantum effects can transform ordinary matter into a quantum phase of matter, such as a superfluid. Prof. Herdman’s current research investigates how nonclassical phenomena like quantum entanglement arise in quantum matter. Additionally, he studies how such quantum many-body systems might be used in a quantum computer. To these ends, Prof. Herdman develops and implements novel numerical algorithms and takes advantage of high-performance computing resources.

    Prof. Paul Hess

    Prof. Hess’s research focuses on studying the quantum mechanical properties of tiny crystals made of a few atomic or molecular ions, which are assembled, trapped, and levitated in a vacuum chamber using electric forces. By imaging and manipulating these trapped ions with laser light, he studies their usefulness as the building blocks of a future quantum computer. Student projects might include testing new optical systems for these ion traps, or simulating their behavior on a computer. Opportunities exist for summer research with Prof. Hess and his collaborators in the Trapped Ion Quantum Information group at the University of Maryland. Research Website

    Prof. Stephen Ratcliff

    Prof. Ratcliff studies spectroscopy and observational astronomy. Students also create computer simulations of stellar structure and evolution. Research Website

    Prof. Susan Watson

    Prof. Watson studies quantum mechanics, quantum computing, and condensed matter physics. Using carbon nanotubes and semiconductor heterostructures, we investigate quantum bits (qubits), the fundamental building blocks of quantum computation.

    Faculty and Student Collaborations

    Examples of papers published in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored with students:

    • E. N. Blose,* B. Ghimire,* N. Graham, and J. Stratton-Smith,* “Edge Corrections to Electromagnetic Casimir Energies From General-Purpose Mathieu-function Routines,” arXiv:1411.0734, Physical ReviewA91 (2015) 012501.
    • Aden Forrow* and Noah Graham, “Variable Phase S-Matrix Calculations for Asymmetric Potentials and Dielectrics,” arXiv:1210.0777, Physical ReviewA86, 062715 (2012).
    • Winkler PF, Twelker K, Reith CN, Long KS, “Expanding Ejecta in the Oxygen-Rich Supernova Remnant G292.0+1.8: Direct Measurement Through Proper Motions,” Astrophysical Journal 692, 1489 (2009).
    • H.O.H. Churchill, F. Kuemmeth, J.W. Harlow, A.J. Bestwick, E.I. Rashba, K. Flensberg, C.H. Stwertka, T. Taychatanapat, S.K. Watson, C.M. Marcus, “Relaxation and Dephasing in a Two-electron 13C Nanotube Double Quantum Dot,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 166802 (2009).
    • H.O.H. Churchill, A.J. Bestwick, J.W. Harlow, F. Kuemmeth, D. Marcos, C.H. Stwertka, S.K. Watson, C.M. Marcus, “Electron-nuclear Interaction in 13C Nanotube Double Quantum Dots,” Nature Physics 5, 321 (2009).
    • E. Farhl, N. Graham, A.H. Guth, N. Iqbal, R.R. Rosales and N. Stamatopoulos, “Emergence of Oscillons in an Expanding Background,” Physical Review D 77, 085019 (2008).
    • Wolfson R, Larson J, Lionello R, “Maximum Energies of Force-free Coronal Flux Ropes,” Astrophysical Journal 660, 1683 (2007). See Wolfson_2007, copyright: The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
    • N. Graham and N. Stamatopoulos, “Unnatural Oscillon Lifetimes in an Expanding Background,” Physics Letters B639, 541 (2006).
    • Winkler PF, Gupta G, Long KS, “The SN 1006 Remnant: Optical Proper Motions, Deep Imaging, Distance, and Brightness at Maximum,” Astrophysical Journal 585, 324 (2003).

    Examples of poster presentations with students:

    • Richard Wolfson and Christina Drake, “Energy Storage and Current Sheets in a Quadrupolar Corona,” AAS Solar Physics Division Meeting (2009). See Wolfson Poster 2009