Faculty Interests

Barry A. Friedman, Ph. D.

Dr. Barry A. FriedmanMy research interests are in computational and theoretical condensed matter and chemical physics. Recently, I have been interested in quantum Hall systems, in particular in the computational aspects. A quantum Hall system consists of electrons moving in 2 dimensions in a high magnetic field at low temperatures. A physical realization is GaAs heterostuctures. One fascinating aspect of these systems is the possibility of having quasi particles with non abelian statistics. Materials with non abelian quasi particles provide a possible robust implementation of quantum computation. Hence, the behavior of condensed matter systems at low temperatures and large distances can be just as exotic as the behavior of particles studied at high energy by elementary particle physicists.

Several Sam Houston State University undergraduate physics majors and myself have investigated quantum Hall systems with a number of numerical tools. To compute the wave functions, direct diagonalization and the density matrix renormalization group have been used. The numerical problem is that the quantum mechanical state space, practically speaking the matrices one must deal with, grow as an exponential of the number of particles being simulated. Even if a many body electron wave function can be accurately calculated it is still not easy to understand the physics. Therefore, special quantities are needed to characterize the wave functions. In particular, quantities from quantum information theory have proved to be valuable; these quantities include the entanglement entropy and the topological entanglement entropy. An outstanding question in this area, that our studies have addressed, are the nature of the states in the second Landau level and whether these states have non abelian quasiparticles.

C. Renee James, Ph. D.

Dr. C. Renee JamesDr. C. Renee James has been part of the physics faculty since 1999. Her primary classroom duty is teaching introductory astronomy for non-science majors, something that she does with great enthusiasm. She has twice been nominated for the University's Excellence in Teaching Award, and her unique teaching methods earned her a Gold Star award from NASA's IGES for inspiring uses of Hubble in Education. Every other summer she and Dr. Scott Miller (Department of Physics) lead an introductory class to Arizona and Australia to experience the astronomical events they would otherwise only read about (The next class is scheduled for Summer I 2014).

Trained as a stellar spectroscopist at the astronomy department of the University of Texas at Austin, she later switched gears from determining the chemical abundances of metal-poor stars in favor of exploring interesting connections in astronomy and the history of science. She has written extensively for both Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines ("What Has Astronomy Done For You Lately?"), and was awarded the Popular Science Writing Award by the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. She recently authored "Seven Wonders of the Universe That You Probably Took for Granted" (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), and is currently working on a book about the surprising life-changing results of seemingly impractical pure science research.

Recently Dr. James was awarded a grant from NASA to work with Dr. Miller and Dr. Andrea Foster from the College of Education to create a workshop to train regional secondary teachers in the nature of astronomical research.          

Joel W. Walker, Ph. D.

Dr. Joel W. WalkerThe motivating objective of my research is establishment of a consistent theoretical framework capable of reconciling a variety of experiments in particle physics and cosmology. With colleagues Nanopoulos, Li, and Maxin at Texas A&M University, I have recently focused on the study of a model named No-Scale F-SU(5) that we jointly proposed.

This model represents a highly phenomenologically favorable combination of the flipped SU(5) GUT with a pair of exotic TeV scale vector-like field multiplets called "flippons" that are derivable within string theory model building, and the dynamically established boundary conditions of no-scale supergravity. This model allows for the very direct synthesis of experiments studying dark matter, proton decay, and rare processes such as flavor-changing neutral current transitions and contributions to the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon. Moreover, it makes very specific predictions for observations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), including a Higgs around 125 GeV and the manifestation of supersymmetry in ultra-high jet multiplicity events.

Our analysis includes detailed Monte Carlo collider-detector computer simulation, with LHC collaboration data selection cut prescriptions replicated by a program of my own design named CutLHCO. Together with David Toback and Guy Almes at Texas A&M University, I am also deeply engaged in the construction of an autonomous web-based monitoring utility named Brazos that is designed to report on the health of computing clusters operating in support of the internal LHC data analysis agenda. This project was initiated during the summer of 2011 with the help of former students Jacob Hill and Michael Kowalczyk, and continues to provide excellent opportunities for student participation.

Scott Miller, Ph.D.

scott millerDr. Scott Miller has been a member of the Physics Department since 2008. Earning his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Maryland based on his study of diffuse ionized gas in the halos of edge-on spiral galaxies, Dr. Miller has since transitioned into the field of astronomy education research.  His main areas of interest focus on the use of technology in the classroom to improve student understanding, the incorporation of team-based learning skills to enhance student involvement within the class, and methods for increasing social presence within introductory online courses.

In addition to his research in these areas, Dr. Miller is also involved in a number of projects geared towards improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in high school and undergraduate college students. Dr. Miller, in collaboration with Dr. C. Renee James (Physics Department) and Dr. Andrea Foster in the College of Education, was recently awarded a NASA grant to develop a summer workshop for pre-service and in-service teachers to instruct them in methods to incorporate NASA data in the classroom as a means to improve science education and the understanding of the nature of science in East Texas high schools.  He is also a member of the Science Faculty Collaborative, a network of Texas faculty focused on instructing pre-service teachers scientific reasoning skills such that they can then foster the next generation of science learners. Dr. Miller also works on a number of other projects geared towards establishing connections with regional STEM education teachers.

Gan Liang, Ph.D.

gan liangResearch Interests:

      • Study of high-temperature superconductors and MgB2-related materials.
      • Study of rare-earth intermetallic compounds which show strong transition metal-host magnetism, valence instability, Kondo-effect, and heavy-fermion behavior.
      • Study of Li-ion Battery materials including LiFePO4-based cathode material
      • Magnetic nanoparticle systems for medical applications.
      • Laser optical imaging.
      • Applied superconductivity with concentration at the fabrication and characterization of high-temperature superconducting wires/tapes and cables.
      • Superconducting magnet technology which includes design of superconducting magnets, superconducting joints, winding and epoxy impregnation of superconducting magnet coils.

Hui Fang, Ph. D.

hui fangMy research expertise lies in experimental solid state physics and materials science, which emphasize on the underlying relationships among composition, microstructure, and physical property of solids. I am particularly interested in the advanced materials for energy applications such as energy storage and energy generation. For the past few years, I have been working extensively on high temperature superconducting materials in various forms for electric power application. Currently, I am working with several physics major undergraduates on a project about electrode materials for lithium ion batteries. The goal of this research is to make lithium ion battery with high energy density and fast charge/discharge rate suitable for electric vehicle application.

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