Research Groups

Physicists work to understand the most basic laws of nature in the most simple and general way possible. Physicists also apply this understanding to solving engineering and design problems in every facet of modern life.

A majority of basic physics research in the United States happens in the Universities and the physics faculty at Sam are both scholars and educators.

All undergraduate physics students at Sam work closely with our faculty on a research project. Additionally, students may partner with outstanding faculty in Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science, Geology, or Engineering Technology for cross-disciplinary applications.

Our research interests span the broad categories of Particle Physics, Materials Science and Astronomy, from which students can launch into almost any postgraduate specialization.

Particle Physics

Particle Physics, also called High Energy Physics, is about identifying the most basic constituents of matter and describing their interactions.

SHSU professors James B. Dent, William Shepherd, and Joel W. Walker specialize in theoretical particle physics and "phenomenology", which bridges theory to experiment. Their work includes analysis of results from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva Switzerland, which accelerates protons to 99.999999\% of the speed of light. Another interest is the search for dark matter, which is known from gravitational effects to represent about a quarter of the energy in the Universe, but which has never been observed directly. Additionally, they study mysterious properties of the elusive neutrino, produced in the Sun and at nuclear reactors, which can travel through a light-year of lead without ever interacting.

Materials Science

Materials Science, also called Solid State or Condensed Matter Physics, is about understanding mysterious emergent properties of dense atomic systems and designing superior molecular compounds for engineering applications. Physics professors Barry FriedmanGan Liang, and Dr. Hui Fang investigate both the theoretical and experimental aspects of materials and their properties.

Dr. Friedman confronts this subject area from the theoretical and computational side. He has a special focus on the Quantum Hall effect, which exhibits a type of "topological entanglement" that could be relevant to quantum computing. Dr. Liang and Dr. Fang make their contributions in the laboratory, employing sophisticated equipment for x-ray spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. Topics of interest include high-temperature superconductors and lithium-ion battery development.


Astronomy is about understanding our place in the Universe, and unraveling the clues of its history from light which reaches our telescopes from across the expanse of space.

Faculty active in this area are Professors Renee James and Scott Miller. They take a special interest in the data-based improvement of approaches to science education, and have hosted intensive NASA-funded continuing education experiences for high-school teachers.
Their scholarly expertise includes the topics of stellar spectroscopy and the study of ionized gas in spiral galaxies.
They are also regular contributors to popular astronomy periodicals and Dr. James is the author of two books on the history of science.