The astronomy group is actively involved in two areas: extrasolar planets and comet science. Research in comet science involves the analysis of ground-based and flyby data from recent comet missions and observing campaigns. Extrasolar planet research involves searches for new planets using radial velocity, transits and direct imaging as well as the characterization of the host stars.
Atomic, Molecular, Optical and Plasma Physics
In atomic and molecular physics, we are involved in a large interdisciplinary project for the development of optical-, imaging- and laser-based techniques and instrumentation systems to address pressing environmental problems. The project includes applications of spectroscopy to the real-time quantitative measurements of species concentration and location. State-of-the-art techniques, such as cavity ringdown spectrometry, laser-induced breakdown spectrometry, optical fiber sensor measurements, and quantitative and spectral imaging techniques, are being employed. In theoretical optics, we are studying energy flow patterns near interfaces with nanoscale resolution. Of particular interest is the case were the medium is a metamaterial, which is an artificially structured composite with a negative index of refraction.
The computational physics group, our newest research area, performs research on algorithm development and applications of large-scale calculations to better understand both static and dynamic processes in complex systems and in materials. Much of this interdisciplinary work is carried out at the MSU HPCC Center for Computational Sciences. The HPCC houses both the massively parallel computers with thousands of processing elements that provide the computer cycles for these studies and the interdisciplinary teams that study these problems.
Condensed Matter Physics
Condensed matter physics deals with the physical properties of condensed phases of matter. The behaviors of a single or a few electrons, bosons, atoms, or spins can be described by quantum mechanics. The behavior of a few semi-classical atoms can act as a gas. Under suitable conditions, a large number of interacting electrons, bosons, atoms, or spins can show many emergent macroscopic phenomena not shared by only a few of them. Some of these types of emergent phenomena include superconductivity, superfluid, superradiances, quantum Hall effects, ferromagnetism, ferroelectricity, Mott insulators, quantum anti-ferromagnets, and nanocrystals. The MSU condensed matter theory group studies these emergent collective behaviors in various materials and cold atoms systems using both numerical and analytical approaches. The studies may be for equilibrium (such as specific heats, susceptibility or correlation functions) or non-equilibrium (such as photon radiations, nucleation or quantum decoherence). The studies involve both large-scale numerical simulations and analytical calculations.
Nuclear physics research at MSU emphasizes both experimental and theoretical investigations of nuclear and nucleon structure, such as the structure and decay modes of nuclei far from stability and the signatures for the fundamental theory of the strong force (called quantum chromo-dynamics or QCD) at intermediate to high energies. The nuclear group also performs high precision tests of the fundamental symmetries in nature. The theoretical studies are performed in the framework of relativistic density functional theory, and effective field theories in the continuum and space-time lattice. The theory research involves both analytical and high-performance computation covering the entire nuclear chart including its extremes such as halo systems, neutron-rich and superheavy nuclei. The experimental research projects involve developing state-of-the-art particle detectors, data acquisition systems,and calibration and analysis software. The experiments are carried out at various national nuclear physics laboratories such as Jefferson Lab, Fermilab, and the NSCL. Data analyses are performed either on campus or at the different laboratories where the experiments are realized.