Research

All of these investigations are ongoing, engage our students and provide them with diverse opportunities for research in their senior thesis projects, and enhance our curriculum by giving exciting cutting-edge material within advanced and introductory courses.

Our faculty have diverse research interests. In the past few years, we have seen a number of exciting new developments and research projects in the department. These research projects span the entire range of modern physics and astronomy.

An important aspect of majoring in Physics and Astronomy is the required senior thesis. Majors are strongly encouraged to elect independent research projects, usually in conjunction with a faculty member’s research program, which may be experimental, computational or theoretical.

Recent thesis topics involving independent research have included carbon nanotubes, maskless lithography, optical tweezers, electron diffraction, computational general relativity, computational and experimental fluid dynamics, nonlinear dynamics and chaos, passive solar architecture and physics education research. Astronomy research projects have included monitoring active galactic nuclei, quasar absorption line spectroscopy, telescope instrument design, analyzing Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescope data and acquiring images of galaxies in infrared and optical wavelengths. Students may also carry out independent work earlier than the senior year as a summer research assistant or under Physics or Astronomy 199.

  • Development and characterization of new molecules in collaboration with scientists in Hanover, Germany (R. Mawhorter)
  • Development of a laboratory at Pomona College for creating ultracold Bose Einstein condensates, and creating high speed digital motions of plant motions (D. Whitaker)
  • Creation of the infrastructure for adaptive optics research using Table Mountain observatory, including a testbed at Caltech demonstrating successful closed operation of the adaptive optics system (P. Choi)
  • Advanced research on gravitational wave detection and interpretation using the proposed eLISA/NGO satellite (T. Moore)
  • Research into physics education involving the development, testing, and evaluation of innovative text materials, classroom activities, and computer tools (T. Moore)
  • Experiments in fluid mechanics that integrate laboratory investigations of viscous behaviors with computer models of hydrodynamics (C. Mitescu)
  • Fabrication and characterization of a number of nanotechnology devices, including nanotubes and microscopic oscillators (D. Tanenbaum)
  • Development of optical tweezer device for suspension and manipulation of small particles relevant for biophysics research (A. Kwok)
  • Monitoring of blazars and active galactic nuclei, including polarimetric studies of the objects using our 1-meter telescope (A. Zook)
  • Studies of the early universe, and the first heavy elements using the Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope to measure elemental abundances from spectra of quasars (B. Penprase)

All of these investigations are ongoing, engage our students and provide them with diverse opportunities for research in their senior thesis projects, and enhance our curriculum by giving exciting cutting-edge material within advanced and introductory courses.