Faculty Interests

James B. Dent, Ph.D.

James Dent profileMy research covers a wide array of topics in theoretical particle physics and cosmology, with a recent focus on dark matter and neutrino physics. Dark Matter: Dark matter makes up roughly one-fourth of the energy density of the universe, yet its underlying nature remains a mystery. I am interested in exploring its possible particle nature through studies of indirect and direct detection, as well as prospects for dark matter signals at collider experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider. My research has been especially aimed at determining to what extent any dark matter properties, including mass, spin, and interaction type, can be distinguished at existing and future experiments. Neutrino Physics: I have recently been investigating coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering, the observation of which was first announced in August of 2017. This coherent scattering process holds a great deal of promise for exploring physics beyond the Standard Model, and also poses an interesting challenge as an irreducible background for upcoming dark matter direct detection experiments. My collaborators and I are actively pursuing the use of this process as a tool for discovering new physics, including novel neutrino interactions and the possibility of probing new sectors of particle physics through coherent neutrino scattering. I am also a member of the Mitchell Institute Neutrino Experiment at Reactor (MINER), which plans to measure coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering using semiconductor detectors placed near the core of the nuclear reactor at the Nuclear Science Center at Texas A\&M University. The MINER program is part of a substantial worldwide effort aimed at exploring new physics scenarios through coherent neutrino scattering. Cosmology: Along with my recent emphasis on dark matter and neutrino physics, I also have interests in the areas of gravitation and cosmology. This includes work on inflation, dark energy, gravitational waves, and modifications of general relativity. Additionally, there is a great deal of overlap with cosmology and my work on dark matter and neutrino physics, including physics of the early universe, and implications for the growth of large scale structure. My publication record is available at Inspire.


Hui Fang, Ph.D.

Hui Fang profileMy 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.


Barry A. Friedman, Ph.D.

Dr. Barry A. Friedman profileMy 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 James profileDr. 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.          


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.


Charles Meitzler, Ph.D.

Charles Meitzler profileFluid dynamics and accelerator physics.


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.


Joel W. Walker, Ph.D.

Dr. Joel W. WalkerWalker joined the physics department at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) in 2005, and has served as the department chair since 2016. His current research interests include study of beyond the Standard Model signatures at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), investigation of collider kinematic variables and development of software tools for reinterpretation of LHC data, as well as probes of new physics in the neutrino sector at reactors. This work has been funded by the National Science Foundation since 2015, and Walker has been designated a KITP Scholar by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Walker maintains a broad network of research collaborators, including several faculty at the nearby Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A\&M University, and has published or worked directly with more than 20 individuals at fourteen different institutions during the last three years. His research overlaps with that of Professor James Dent, and both function as theory advisors to the MINER (Mitchell Institute Neutrino Experiment at Reactor) project. Walker's students at SHSU have gone on to graduate study at Baylor, Georgia Tech, the University of Houston (2), the University of Oklahoma (2), Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Dallas, Texas Tech(2), and Vanderbilt, and to careers in industry. Former student Kamal Lamichhane was awarded a prestigious LHC Physics Center Graduate Scholar appointment at FermiLab for 2018. Derek Johnson, Matt Breeding, Kebur Fantahun, and Ashen Fernando recently presented their research at the annual Phenomenology conference at the University of Pittsburgh, and the latter pair additionally published their work in Physical Review D as "Probing Squeezed Bino-Slepton Spectra with the Large Hadron Collider", in collaboration with faculty and post-doctoral assistants at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Hawaii, Utah, and Michigan. Walker's publication record is available at Inspire.


John Wilson, Ph.D.

John Wilson

Dr. John Wilson joined the physics faculty in 2009 and has lectured extensively in astronomy and undergraduate physics. Additionally he oversees and actively pursues the upgrading of physics laboratories. Upgrading emphasizes computerization and the use of advanced technology such as Pasco’s Capstone data collection and analysis platform. The use of advanced technology in undergraduate physics laboratory better prepares students for research employment following graduation from Sam Houston State University. Moreover, it provides more efficient data collection and analysis, easily providing students strong visualization of the physics behind material reality.

Dr. Wilson has pursued research for over 30 years in industry and academia and has actively participated in and led outreach activities. He has worked with government grants in several areas. His current research investigates the use of thermal imaging equipped Unmanned Aerial Systems in Precision Agriculture. Dr. Wilson has degrees in both electrical engineering and physics, an ideal combination for UAS research.

Dr. Wilson maintains a wide range of interests as evidenced with his having obtained a Ph.D. in physics and a D.Th. in theology. Research interests have spanned the use of polyester films in magnetic tape and refrigeration motors, use of polyaramids in high voltage applications, ion beam modification of high molecular weight polyethylene for medical applications, particle physics, and precision agriculture. In theology, he has pursued the questions of religion and science with emphasis on the work of John C. Polkinghorne.


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