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.

  • Jiangyong Yu in front of whiteboard

    Undergrad Jiangyong Yu invents algorithm to measure temperature of super cool atoms

    When you want to know the temperature inside your refrigerator, you can just open the door and stick in a thermometer. Physicists who study tiny collections of ultra-cold atoms don’t have it so easy. Undergrad Jiangyong Yu ‘19 has helped invent a new tool—“it’s an algorithm,” he says—that promises to give experimental scientists a better measure of what’s happening inside some of the most interesting and strange collections of matter known to science—atoms near absolute zero.

    For example, researchers might have a known number of lithium atoms trapped in a microscopic box that’s so cold that none of the atoms can get out. Really crazy (um, cool?) realities of physics have been discovered studying these kinds of systems. But measuring the thermodynamics inside the box—including, critically, the temperature—has been “very difficult,” says professor Adrian Del Maestro. He and UVM post-doctoral researcher Hatem Barghathi worked side-by-side with Yu on a new approach to what are called “canonical partition functions.” By combining ideas from pure mathematics with well-established formulas used to study real-world quantum gases, the team was able to tame a long-standing mathematical problem in physics.

    Jiangyong Yu’s theoretical research was so original and useful that he was invited to give a talk last month at the most prestigious physics meeting in the country. Being a college student speaking to a roomful of professors at the American Physical Society was daunting. “There's 60 experts in the room and we thought someone might stand up and say, ‘you know, actually this was known in 1972,’ but nobody did,” said Del Maestro. “People liked it,” said Yu, a physics major with a double minor in computer science and music. The UVM team, using the university’s VACC supercomputer and with support from the National Science Foundation, seems to have discovered a new way to build a more accurate thermometer for a quantum-scale icebox. “Who knows what we’ll find,” says Del Maestro. “Maybe some entirely new physics.”

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)