Click on the images to read about each topic, or scroll down to see a longer introduction.
|Condensed Matter Physics||High Energy Physics||Experimental Nuclear Physics|
|Theoretical Nuclear Physics||String Theory||Quantum Optics / Cold Atoms|
|Nonlinear/Complex Systems||Free Electron Laser Laboratory||Biological Physics||Astrophysics|
The individual groups of the department work in the facilities of the physics department and also collaborate with our colleagues across the campus (including the medical center and hospital) and across the world. They work both in small collaborations and large international facilities. Research opportunities abound for both undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to be part of cutting-edge research.
Condensed matter physics is a wide ranging field involving the study of materials and systems. Some current experimental research topics in the department include nonlinear dynamics in solids and fluids, phase transitions and critical phenomena, and quantum liquids and solid. This research includes the study of nano-materials and the interesting regime where quantum effects come into play. About half the condensed matter theory faculty work on topics related to collective properties of many-electron systems, especially at the frontier of nanoscience in which novel properties arise in electronic systems such as quantum dots that range from 1-100 nanometers in size. The other half of the faculty works on collective properties of classical systems for which quantum mechanics plays little if any role. See all Condensed Matter Physics information.
High Energy Physics is the study of the most fundamental building blocks of nature. Both accelerators producing energies not seen since the big bang, and natural sources of high energy particles are used to elucidate the nature of matter. Members of the department are working on the CDF experiment at the Fermi national laboratory in Chicago, the Atlas experiment at the LHC in Geneva, Switzerland and the Super-Kamiokande and T2K experiments in Japan. Topics include the search for the Higgs boson and the study of the properties of the neutrino with a focus on understanding the origin of mass and the observed matter asymmetry of the universe. See all High Energy Physics information.
Nuclear physics is the study of nuclear matter in its many states and the interactions of other nucleons and sub-atomic particles with them. This ranges from low-energy searches for dark matter and neutrino physics to high energy electron scattering off of nuclear targets. The Duke physics department is the host of the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) at which researches from Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University work together. TUNL hosts several accelerators for nuclear astrophysics and a high intensity gamma-ray source which utilizes the Duke free electron laser. Duke researchers also work at JLAB in Virginia and Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. See all Nuclear Physics information.
Theoretical physics attempts to describe and predict the fundamental laws governing the structure and interactions of matter. The Duke group focuses on the rules governing the interactions of quarks and nuclei (QCD or quantum chromodynamics) using a variety of theoretical and computational techniques. The group focuses both on trying to predict the structure of matter by deriving quark interactions from first principles and by investigating the behavior of quark matter under the most extreme conditions. These two approaches give insight both into nuclear structure today and conditions in the early universe. See all Theoretical Nuclear and Particle Physics information.
String theory is an attempt to describe a fundamental theory of nature which naturally incorporates both gravity and quantum mechanics. There is an active group in the mathematics and physics departments which studies areas of theoretical physics where modern geometric methods (algebraic geometry, differential geometry, symplectic geometry and topology) play an important role. Not only are geometric methods applied to theoretical physics, but there are often spinoffs in which new insights into mathematics are gained from studying the physical theories. See all String Theory information.
Quantum optics explores the fundamental interaction of light with matter. All-optical atom traps based on light forces confine atoms at ultracold temperatures. Current research projects include studies of ultra-cold degenerate Fermi gases that offer unprecedented opportunities to test the latest calculational methods for fundamental many-body systems in nature. Ongoing experiments test predictions for the thermodynamics for high-temperature superfluids, superconductors and neutron stars, as well as quantum hydrodynamics in quark-gluon plasmas and strings. Other projects include methods for controlling and processing information in the optical domain via "slow" and "fast" light, the fundamental limits on the speed of information transfer, single-photon all-optical switching, and complexity-based sensor networks. See all Quantum Optics/Ultra-cold atoms information.
The Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems (CNCS) is an interdisciplinary University-wide organization that fosters research and teaching of nonlinear dynamics, chaos, pattern formation and complex nonlinear systems with many degrees of freedom. The CNCS at Duke is widely recognized for the breadth of its activities and the overall quality of the research which it engenders. A number of physics faculty, post-docs and students actively participate in the Center. Other departments involved with the CNCS include Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics, the Nicholas School of Environment and the School of Engineering. The Center provides a regular seminar series, and a certificate program of study for graduate and advanced undergraduate students. See all Nonlinear and Complex Systems information.
The Duke Free Electron Laser Laboratory(FEL) operates a storage ring based free electron laser light source. This ultraviolet FEL, installed in a 1.2 GeV storage ring provides tunable coherent radiation from 400 nm to 193 nm. Intense gamma rays are produced by internal backscattering. Active areas of research at the Duke FEL laboratory include FEL/accelerator physics, nuclear physics, materials science, and biological physics. The Duke FEL Laboratory is housed in a 52,000 square foot facility adjacent to the physics department building. See all Free-Electron Laser Laboratory information.
Professors Glenn Edwards, Gleb Finkelstein,
Dan Gauthier, Henry Greenside, Calvin Howell,
and Josh Socolar pursue research in biological
physics. Current projects include investigations
of DNA self-assembly as a promising method for
nano-electronics. Another project investigates
genetic regulatory networks, where the sequencing
of full genomes and monitoring of the concentrations
of thousands of molecular species within cells have
given us new windows into the physical nature of life.
Investigations of tissue mechanics in developmental
biology are determining the role of molecular-scale
and cellular-scale dynamics and larger scale emergent
properties in pattern formation. Another project uses
radioisotopes to track changes in plant physiology
as a consequence of environmental changes.
See all Biological Physics information.