Denison is well-known for creating the kind of research opportunities for undergraduate students that often are reserved for graduate students at other institutions. The Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty members are talented educators, active researchers, and dedicated mentors who engage their students in the exciting processes of creating new knowledge through student-faculty research.

Fields of Research

Faculty members actively advise & encourage students as they explore areas of interest beyond the curriculum.  Faculty members in the Department of Physics, commonly work together with their students, and are actively engaged in leading-edge research and discovery in several exciting fields of study, including some of the following: 

  • Astrophysics is broadly focused on the evolution and structure of planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe.
  • Atomic/Molecular/Optical (AMO) physics research seeks to understand the structure of and interactions between atoms, molecules, and light.
  • Biomechanics is an interdisciplinary field that combines physics with anatomy and physiology to better understand how the moving body interacts with the physical world.
  • Biophysics is a burgeoning field that endeavors to derive and understand complex biological systems from the principles pf physics and is, by definition, highly interdisciplinary work, with applications in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and engineering.
  • Condensed Matter physics encompasses the properties of solids, crystals, semiconductors, polymers, superconductors, superfluids, and other novel materials.

Opportunities For Research

Summer Scholars

The Summer Scholars Program permits students to pursue full-time collaborative work with faculty members for a minimum of ten weeks during the summer. Over the course of the summer, students have the opportunity to conduct research in a variety of advanced fields. Students get to work one-on-one with faculty in a laboratory setting, utilizing specialized equipment such as high-power pulsed lasers, ultra-high vacuum, analog and digital electronics, and custom computer systems designed for numerical simulation and data analysis. Overall, it is a unique opportunity to develop technical skills and gain a deep understanding of a cutting-edge field in physics and astronomy.

In recent years, these research results have been presented by physics and astronomy students at scientific conferences, enabling students to experience first-hand the vibrant discussion and analysis that makes up the scientific community. Venues have included the American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting, the Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) annual meeting, and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) annual meeting. Moreover, students deeply involved in research have been coauthors on scientific journal articles, allowing them to experience the complete, meticulous process of re-analyzing, re-editing, and finally publishing scientific research. These articles have appeared in impactful journals such as Physical Review A (PRA), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), and more.

Summer Scholars in the Department of Physics and Astronomy may be funded through internal sources such as the Anderson Endowment, or through external grants obtained by faculty such as the National Science Foundation, NASA, Research Corporation, and the Army Research Office.

Senior Research

Senior research offers a wealth of opportunity for in-depth exploration, investigation, and discovery.  It’s usually undertaken in collaboration with, or under close supervision by, a faculty member.  Normally, senior research requires a major thesis, report or project in the student's field of concentration and carries eight semester-hours of credit for the year.  Senior research may often extend the summer research students have already pursued.  It has proven to be great preparation for those interested in going to graduate school and pursuing full-time technical careers in science and engineering.

Independent Studies

An independent study engages students in an advanced topic beyond the standard curriculum or at a much deeper level.  It is also another method that students can use to pursue research projects during the semester.  In all cases, it is an excellent way for students to broaden their knowledge of modern topics in physics and astronomy.  During the semester, students work on a project that is approved by the faculty member who agrees to serve as the project advisor.  Recent examples of independent study topics include nuclear physics, nonlinear dynamics, and advanced topics in atomic physics and quantum information.