Student Research

Projects for undergraduate students


Shivani Gupta

“Optical Trapping of Nanoparticles”


Kathleen Smith

“Wave Packet Dynamics in H_2 and O_2 molecules”

Stefano Corinado

“Building LUNA-C Cluster system”

Sterling Heyns

The Virtual Solenoid Project” – A normal electromagnet consists of charges flowing through metal coils, which creates a magnetic field whose strength is proportional to the current and number of coils. This project was created to subvert the normal current cost of electromagnets, creating a stronger magnet with less current cost. The idea is that two wire solenoids, creating magnetic fields orthogonal to each other and an electron’s velocity, will cause that electron to rotate in a circle while traveling in a straight line, resulting in a solenoid formation and producing a magnetic field. An electron gun will provide a steady stream of electrons, creating a solenoid without the use of metal. This semester has been spent creating computer simulations of the Virtual Solenoid apparatus to test whether or not it is possible for it to produce a magnetic field stronger than the two real solenoids attached to it combined. If it is possible, then we could create a variable electromagnet that is more electrically efficient than a wired one (by Sterling).


Margaret Gregory

“Wave Packet Dynamics in Diatomic Molecules”.

Stephen Tivenan

“The Entropy and Elasticity Constant of Rubber Bands”

Spring 2018

Hannah Killian


Hannah Killian 

 “Attosecond time delay in photoionization” –The field of atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) physics encompasses the study of interactions between matter and other matter, or the interaction of matter and light. Since the interactions are between single atoms, they occur very quickly. This research involves a theoretical laser-matter interaction, during which the energy from the laser interacts with a valence electron in the atom. The electron becomes separated from the atom, which is referred to as photoionization. This process occurs very quickly, on a time scale of 10-18 seconds. The main purpose of this project is to determine the amount of time it takes for the photoionization process to occur during the ionization of the valence electrons from bromine and krypton atoms. The difference between the duration of time it takes for electrons in different energy levels to ionize is referred to as the relative time delay. Several theoretical models exist in order to calculate the delay. This research makes use of the time dependent local density approximation (TDLDA) specifically, with FORTRAN software. We optimize the input for the method in FORTRAN and calculate the relative time delay for the 4p, 4s, and 3d electron energy levels for bromine and krypton. (by Hannah)


Sterling Heyns

Molecular Dynamics” – Computer programming is an invaluable tool of physics, allowing us to perform theoretical calculations quickly and in-depth. One of the most important parts of designing a successful simulation is how the data is presented, which was the focus of our project. Dr. Magrakvelidze designed a program to simulate the process of atoms in molecules moving further apart when being exposed to laser light, which output its data in the form of a three-dimensional file. Our job was to take these data points, printed in lines that each represented a time step, and create a moving graph. By the end, we had created a program that parsed the three dimensional data into rows, turned the individual data into points on a graph, then updated the positions of those points with each incoming row. While this sounds simple from a human standpoint, computers have much less of a free-form thought process and the act of parsing the files alone was a considerable task. The work is challenging, but using computer science to transform data into understandable visuals makes it one of the most valuable tools when marketing science to the public. (by Sterling)



  • Pengcheng Zhang,
  • Vidhya Cardozo,
  • Kayla Frye 


“Quantitative Efficiency Analysis of a Single Optically Trapped Up-converting Nanoparticle”. – New generation fluorophores, known as Up-converting Nanoparticles (UCNPs), when excited, have the ability to convert low energy near- infrared radiations (NIR) into visible high energy wavelengths through non-linear optical processes. The UCNPs can be exploited in a way so they can be integrated into various biological and medical research, such as single molecule spectroscopy, colloidal dynamics, protein isolation, and can also be used as bio-detection assays in both in vitro and in vivo applications. The purpose of this research is to study and compare the up-conversion and detection of nanoparticles, namely NaYF4 with infrared laser beams of wavelengths 915 nm and 980 nm. The advantage of using a 915 nm laser includes lower water absorption and deeper tissue penetration, which is ideal for medical applications. This is ongoing research, and the eventual goal is to prepare equipment for the optical trapping of nanoparticles, develop more advanced computer programs for data analysis, and finally use mice as our models for UCNP application. (by Vidhya)