wide angle shot of new labs

Undergraduate physics majors at UVM can conduct research during the semester for class credit or during the summer with a stipend.  Often, undergraduate research leads to thesis research, either as part of the John Dewey Honors Program or departmental honors. 

It’s not uncommon for undergraduate students publish their research in professional peer-reviewed scientific journals. NSF and NIH-funded researchers can apply for additional funds to support undergraduates in their labs. In addition, the department awards students from the A. Crowell Fund support in undergraduate research in physics.

Computational Biophysics

We use molecular simulations to understand the physical principles underlying the function of biological systems. This is pertinent to lipid biomembranes, mechanosenstive channels, and enzymatic catalysis. We study the connection between chemical structure and mechanical properties at the nanoscale. Researchers in our group contribute to the development and implementation of local stress calculations from molecular dynamic simulations. If interested, please contact Professor Juan Vanegas at Juan.Vanegas@uvm.edu

Optoelectronic Devices

Our research efforts focus on materials for optoelectronic devices like solar cells and LEDs. We are exploring low-cost and high-efficiency solar cell materials. We aim to construct electroluminescent devices with resonant cavities at visible wavelengths If you want to join us in exploring the world of materials and device physics at UVM, contact Professor Matthew White at Mathew.White.1@uvm.edu

Theoretical Physics

(Image at left: Vibrating cluster of C60 molecules with a Potassium atom). For undergraduates who have completed some of the 200-level course work in physics, there are opportunities to pursue research projects in theoretical physics under faculty supervision. Theoretical projects typically involve using mathematical techniques to study the behavior of a model system. To make quantitative connections to experimental data, we often use computers available on campus to numerically study a specific system. Many projects involve one or more of the following branches of physics: atomic and molecular physics, condensed matter physics, quantum physics, surface physics, chemical physics, and statistical physics. Projects frequently relate to developing an understanding of the properties of molecules, clusters, and solids, starting from a foundation of quantum mechanics. Such studies contribute to the emerging field of nanoscience, the science of systems whose spatial extent is of the order of nanometers! Future undergraduate research projects include investigating new ways of making a quantum computer, exploring how biopolymers like DNA stick to surfaces, and studying the nature of the van der Waals interaction.  (That may be what enables the gecko to walk on walls!)  More details can be found on Professor Clougherty’s web site.

 Ultrasonics and Optics

These projects usually involve (but are not limited to) applications of ultrasound and light. Recent student research projects include: Nonlinear behaviors of bubbles, delivery of drugs and DNA on target, acoustic imaging and optical trapping. Students interested in this area can contact Professor Junru Wu via junru-wu@uvm.edu.

  • Katy Czar works with laser equipment

    Katy Czar researches thin-film organic semiconductors

    Katy Czar '19 has been a physics enthusiast since the sixth grade. She was a serial watcher of NOVA episodes, and read anything she could find about CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe that recreates conditions of the first moments of the universe. She received her B.S. degree in physics from UVM in May, along with the department’s Albert D. Crowell Award, presented annually to a senior physics major for outstanding undergraduate research. Czar credits this experience as a key credential in getting a job as technical consultant for at Galen Healthcare Solutions which begins a few weeks after graduation.

    A Vermont native, Czar envisioned herself going to a college out of state. But she was captivated by the UVM campus on her first visit. “I just loved the feel of the place. It turned out to be the right decision.”

    She hadn’t taken physics in high school, though she completed the International Baccalaureate program at The Long Trail School, a regimen she describes as “AP’s on steroids.” University level physics challenged her analytical skills and natural enthusiasm for the discipline. Grit and determination helped her mount the learning curve.

    “I got a ‘C’ on my first test,” she remembers. “I spent every week in office hours and ended up getting an ‘A’ in the class.” She also discovered a supportive and accessible group of teacher/scholars.

    “Faculty in the physics department are fantastic people,” she said. “They have set office hours but often they’ll say ‘just stop by anytime.’ It’s a really close-knit department where you get to know your professors and fellow students.”

    The instructor of her first physics class, Associate Professor Madalina Furis, took high-achieving students in the class out for coffee—she urged them to get involved in research by their sophomore year. Czar had been attracted to Furis’ lab from her very first UVM tour. “Honestly, the lasers really drew me in,” Czar remembers. Furis agreed to take Czar on as a research advisee.

    “In her lab we do spectroscopy of organic thin-film semiconductors,” Czar says of her work. “We use lasers to investigate the behavior of electrons.” She explains that inorganic semiconductors with silicon as the main ingredient are already present in electronic devices including LED screens and cellphones. Czar says organic semiconductors offer a more environmentally friendly alternative—they can be deposited on flexible substrates like plastics or foils. 

    “The challenge is they are not as efficient at moving electrons as silicon and other inorganic semiconductors,” Czar says. “Our goal is finding ways to fine tune these materials to achieve better performance efficiencies.”

    Besides being more environmentally sound, the organic versions of the semiconductors would be cheaper to produce. It could result in products like flexible LEDs (think of a cellphone screen that can folded up like a wallet) or bio sensors that can be attached to and move with the human body.

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Yamagata University Research Experience

Learn more about our ten-week research and learning adventure at Yamagata University, the birthplace of the organic white light emitting diode (WOLED), located in Yonezawa, the hometown of the famous Teijin Ltd Company, world leader in polymer materials production and innovation. Prior knowledge of Japanese language and culture is not required. Application is due January 31, 2019, and program dates are May 24-August 5, 2019.

Undergraduate research projects in physics 

  • Katy Czar, Strain Effects on Coherent Excitons in Organic Crystalline Thin Films (Physics Senior Honors Thesis, 2019)
  • Renee Beneski, Critical Films on Graphene Substrates (Physics Senior Honors Thesis, 2018)
  • Lynn Brinkman, Polarization and Pulsars (PDF), (Physics Honors Thesis, 2017)
  • Michael V. Arnold, Optical and Electronic Investigation of Hydrogen-Bonded Organic Semiconductor Quinacridone, (Physics Senior Honors Thesis, 2017)
  • Haley Megan Wahl, Cores & Conces and the Case of the Misbehaving Neutron Stars, (Physics Senior Honors Thesis, 2017)
  • Daniel Gordon Allman, Mode Entanglement in the Lieb-Liniger Model (PDF), (Physics Honors Thesis, 2015)