Research Opportunities for Students


Photo of the Moon taken at the EIU Observatory.

Dr. Zou

Thermodynamics of Gases – This study is about numerical simulations of systems. Computational Physics is used to calculate the state of a system. Techniques are employed to simplify complex systems and to track a finite number of particles in the system. Students will understand physical principles involved in atomic interactions and also computational techniques for solving difficult problems.

Atomic Force Microscopy – This project is centered around a newly acquired Atomic Force Microscope that was purchased through an NSF grant as a joint project with Physics, Chemistry, and Geology/Geography. Students will learn the theory and operation of an Atomic Force Microscope.

Simulations of Nanofluids – This project applies the Molecular Dynamics (MD) Simulation technique to study the thermal conductivity of nanofluids, fluids with suspended solid nanoparticles. Students will gain practical skills with using the MD simulation technique for solving complex Physics and Engineering problems.

Dr. Conwell

Observational Astronomy – Near Earth Objects are important to track because they could possibly collide with Earth in a catastrophic disaster. The search for and discovery of these objects is the focus of this research. Students will utilize the EIU 16-inch telescope, the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI) 30-inch telescope, and the ARI 32-inch telescope along with computer data analysis processes to search for new objects.

Observational Astronomy/Spectroscopy – Telescopes can be used to discover many things about objects in the sky. Telescopes can be trained on an object and then made to follow the object as the Earth rotates. As the telescope follows the object more and more data is collected and there are methods to put all of this data to use to improve the images. This research adds a spectrometer to the system so that wavelength data can also be interpreted and analyzed. Students in this project will learn the operation of the EIU telescope along with the spectrometer and data analysis processes.

Dr. Brandt

Acoustic Levitation – It is possible to suspend an object using sound waves. The thrust of this work is to levitate an object and control its position and motion using sound waves. This will simulate a microgravity environment for the object which could lead to further investigations. Students working in this experimental project will learn the electronics associated with acoustic amplifiers and synthesizers.

Dr. Pakey

Neutron Star Dynamics – The radiation from Neutron Stars must travel through some complex systems before it even leaves the vicinity of the star. An understanding of the processes and systems that the radiation must traverse is important to help understand the Neutron Star. The thrust of this theoretical work is to understand the radiative properties of the Neutron Star. Computational Physics methods are employed to solve some of the complicated equations encountered. Students will learn some Astrophysics related to Neutron Stars and also computational techniques for solving some equations related to radiative transfer.

Ms. Lehman

Physics Education – Research into the process of learning Physics is critical to optimizing learning in the classroom. Gender, major, and class can all change the way in which a student approaches new problems. This research is aimed at understanding the differences in how different students attack and solve problems based on their characteristics. Students in this research group will learn methods of surveying and statistical analysis of data collected.

Dr. Daniels

Polarization Optics – Light can be polarized using a variety of methods. A linear polarizer has an efficiency that is dependent on the angle of incidence of the light. The efficiency of linear polarizers is important for many optical systems and this research is aimed at measuring experimentally that efficiency. Students will learn optical alignment of systems as well as signal detection processes for systems where there is a high signal to noise ratio.


Optical Tweezers – Light can be used to capture and hold small objects. The objects to be captured and held in this research are artificial blood units. Artificial blood is important because there are always blood shortages around the globe. Research to create a viable artificial blood substitute is ongoing and one issue is that the units of blood tend to stick together. Optical Tweezers can be used to measure the forces between the blood units. A knowledge of those forces will help to develop ways to solve the problem. Students in this group will learn the optical alignment of the tweezers, the handling of artificial blood, and data acquisition and analysis processes.