Seminars & Events

Natural Science & Mathematics Colloquium
Most Wednesdays at 4:40 in Schaefer 106

For updates, like the Colloquium on Facebook.

Program Highlight

Students preparing to drop a pumpkin from a window

The Physics Club organizes many activities for all students who enjoy physics.  

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SMP Spotlight

Daniel Powell (2009), “Quantum-Walk Analogues of Optical Phenomena” (mentor: Josh Grossman)

Dan received the Department Award in Physics and the Geneva Boone Award for Outstanding St. Mary’s Project.  He presented his SMP research in a talk at the 2009 conference of the Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics of the American Physical Society.  He is currently pursuing his PhD in physical chemistry at Northwestern University. 

Physics Research at St Mary's

The Physics Department strongly encourages active undergraduate research.  Each senior completes a St Mary's Project (SMP), which is a capstone experience to their work at St Mary's.

In addition to research opportunities on campus, many students participate in research at the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station as part of an educational partnership agreement with the Navy.

Atom Interferometery and Light Scattering - Chuck Adler

Prof. Adler has been in a long-term collaboration with Dr. Frank Narducci of NAWCAD.  The research in this collaboration involves using ultra-cold atoms to build highly sensitive magnetometers for Navy uses.  The project involves fundamental properties of quantum mechanics: the idea that atoms, like light waves, can be interfered.  Currently, his research involves building this system; in particular, he is constructing a dual MOT (Magneto-Optical Trap) for trapping and cooling atoms for the interferometer.  This involves the design and construction of a novel electromagnet system.

For the last two decades, Dr. Adler has also been involved with research in atmospheric optics: optic of the rainbow, ice crystal halos, the Green Flash, and other aspects of the interaction of light with the atmosphere and landscape.  He hosted the 10th International "Light and Color in the Open Air" conference at St. Mary's College in June, 2010.  This is a gathering of scientists from around the world who study atmospheric optics; it was the first international scientific conference ever hosted by the college.  The photographic exhibition running parallel to the conference, "The Atmosphere Exposed", has been displayed at the National Science Foundation main headquarters as part of the "Art of Science" program, and traveled to the American Center for Physics in May, 2012.

He is interested in a wide variety of other topics: he currently is researching the interrelation between science and music in the work of Vincenzo Galilei (Galileo's father).  His book, Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction, was published in 2014 by Princeton University Press.

Laser Cooling, Trapping Atoms, & Quantum Walks - Josh Grossman

Professor Grossman’s research with students falls into two categories: (1) applications of laser cooling & trapping of atoms and (2) quantum processes.  Students have been co-authors on many presentations of this research at national conferences.  Sara DeSavage ’10 was featured for her research in the SPS Observer, the national magazine of the Society of Physics students.  Dan Powell ’09 won St. Mary’s Geneva Boone Award for Outstanding St. Mary’s Project.

The group pursues two laser cooling projects which have received financial support from the Office of Naval Research and from Research Corporation for Science Advancement.  In one project, Prof. Grossman and students are constructing microchip traps for atoms which could one day be the building blocks of a quantum computer.  In the second project, a collaboration with Prof. Adler and Dr. Frank Narducci of NAVAIR researches using laser cooled and trapped atoms for sensors to be deployed on aircraft.  They are also investigating miniaturizing atom trapping experiments using bichromatic laser cooling.  Many students who worked in this collaboration have gone on to employment with NAVAIR.

Prof. Grossman and students also research quantum walks.  These quantum analogues of classical random walks are a source of new computer algorithms and they help explain physical processes such as energy transport in photosynthesis.   Another project investigates implementing an unusual class of quantum measurements, which have applications in quantum cryptography.

High Energy Physics Phenomenology & Physics Education - Erin De Pree

The nationally recognised particle physics group at St Mary's is very active exploring extra dimensions and new particles.  Last year, alum Jeremy Perrin (2013) was recognized as a finalist for the American Physical Society's Apker Award to honor outstanding research by undergraduate students.  Frequently the group presents their work at the annual American Physical Society April Meeting.  The group is currently working with Professor Ted Tao on the consequences of a dark matter candiate produced by gamma ray bursts.

Professor De Pree also studies physics education.  She has developed curriculum preparing physics students for career and created modeling exercises of nuclear reactors.

Acoustical Properties of Inhomogeneous Materials - Michelle Milne

Professor Milne investigates the acoustical properties of inhomogeneous materials, which have a number of interesting applications in the medical field of ultrasound.

The Nature of Quantum Mechanics & Sound - Katsunori Mita

Professor Mita focuses his research on reformulating quantum mechanics in the hydrodynamical form.  Together with his SMP student Brian Tennyson (2011), Prof. Mita recently solved a rather lengthy set of nonlinear differential equations.  They obtained the full spectrum of the coherent and squeezed states of the harmonic oscillator.

Prof. Mita also explores the physics of sound: reproducing 2D resonances, recreating sounds, and studying the complexities of the string vibrations.

External Research Opportunities

Many SMCM physics students spend their summers doing research off-campus.  These experiences enrich the students' lives and education.  Students have gone to summer programs at the American Physical Society, National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Purdue University, and many others.