Research Facilities 

The Davidson College Physics Department has research opportunities for undergraduates in the areas of computational, experimental, and theoretical physics.  The experimental research is concentrated  on two of the most active and exciting areas in current research: solid state and laser spectroscopy. Our advanced laboratories have received over one-quarter million dollars in new equipment over the last five years, and we now have some of the best equipment in the country for undergraduate research participation. 

Our two Nd/YAG dye laser systems are each capable of producing very short (10-8 sec) light pulses with a peak power of 10 million watts! A 1.33m McPherson spectrometer is equipped with a cooled photomultiplier tube and image intensified photodiode array. The 1 GHz digital storage scope is an impressive tool for data taking and analysis. We also have a passively stabilized Ti-dye ring laser, a Nd/AG pumped OPO with doubler and a DSC/TGA for calorimetry with microgram resolution.

Our three new faculty members are establishing research programs to study the laser spectroscopy of negative ions and Rydberg atoms, the laser spectroscopy of semiconductors with applications to opto-electronic devices, and theoretical physics with interests in computational methods in quantum mechanics, particle physics, and quantum field theories (QCD). We also have ultrasonic facilities to measure elastic properties of solids, capacitance bridges to measure ionic conductivity in solids, and spectrometers to measure optical properties of solids. 

Although you may not know what these pieces of equipment are now, you can be assured that student hands-on experience is valued very highly at Davidson. Our equipment is not locked away and accessible only to faculty, but is a useful and used component of a Davidson undergraduate education.

 

Research Participation

Every physics major is encouraged to participate in an independent research project.  Students are exposed to a synthesis of research and teaching from the time they enroll in their first physics course at Davidson.  Building on this initial experience, upper level courses develop skills in instrumentation and research methods.  By the end of their 4 years at Davidson, most students have been involved in either ongoing projects with departmental members, projects developed by the student for whom we have the appropriate equipment and expertise already available, or projects done during the summer at national laboratories or research universities.  The close collaboration between faculty and students is similar to the experience students will have in any graduate research program. However, our students use the equipment and are not just passive observers as undergrads are at research universities.  A student’s work usually results in oral presentations at local, regional and national professional meetings.  Publication of their work in professional journals is an attainable goal for many of our students.

Recent research projects have included (see the student research page for a more complete list):  Excitation dependence of radiative efficiency in InGaAs lattice-matched to InP,” “Creation, Confinement and Detection of Negative Ion Species,” “An Analytic Study of Wave Packet Dynamics in the Asymmetric Infinite Square Well,” “Supersymmetric Quantum Mechanics,” “Quenching of Green Upconverted Fluorescence in Er3+-doped Sol Gel-prepared Glasses,” “Second-order Elastic Constants of AgCl(56.6%)/AgBr from 23 to 400°C,” “Interferometric Wavelength Measurements,” “Ions in Electromagnetic Traps,” and “An Examination of Atomic-Field Interactions.”  Four of the above projects were done for Honors in Physics.  The results of these projects have been presented by our students at meetings of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society and the North Carolina Academy of Science.  Our students consistently win awards for the best student presentation at these meetings. 

Two students appear as co-authors on a computational physics textbook published by John Wiley & Sons.  National recognition and awards have been given to ten student/faculty software projects dealing with chaos, lasers, statistical physics, laser cooling and trapping, ion traps, atom-field interactions, Delphi tools, molecular dynamics and Physlets (scriptable Java applets designed for physics) in recent years.

There are employment opportunities for students interested in doing research in physics at Davidson during the summer. Students have also participated in summer research programs at Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Georgia, the University of Virginia, the University of Tennessee, Florida State University, North Carolina State University, Syracuse University, and Cornell University.

Computing Facilities

A departmental workstation cluster gives students access to the latest visualization, graphics, and symbolic computation tools. Internet connections give them login capabilities at facilities throughout the world. An undergraduate physics major with an interest in computers might also consider the computer science concentration or the  applied math concentration. These tracks provide excellent opportunities for entrance into engineering or computer science graduate school while giving students a broad science and liberal arts background.

 

The Physics Department sponsors the Physics Computation Center, PCC. This center is used by physics majors and majors from other departments for senior projects and other research opportunities. The Center reflects the convergence of scientific computing technologies toward visual and object-oriented programming paradigms.

The PCC is equipped with high-end workstations (we recently purchased 4 Pentium IV 3.80GHz computers for the PCC) in individualized carrels designed for independent study and advanced work. Mathematica symbolic algebra, PSpice circuit simulators, and LabVIEW and Java programming tools are all here for the interested student.

Further Information

For further information, please contact Dr. Wolfgang Christian, Chair, Department of Physics, Davidson College, P. O. Box 7133, Davidson, NC 28035-7133 or call (704) 894-2322 or e-mail: wochristian@davidson.edu.  If you would like to tour our facilities, including our labs, classrooms, etc., please contact Dr. Christian and schedule an appointment. We would welcome your visit at any time.


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