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Academics

Student Research

Student/Faculty Research

Physics faculty members are active in a variety of experimental and theoretical areas.

Neutrino Group (Prof. Nathaniel Tagg)

http://neutrino.otterbein.edu
Neutrinos are subatomic particles that exist in huge numbers in the universe, but interact with matter so rarely that examination of their properties is a major scientific challenge. We work with collaborations of scientists to build build machines weighing many thousands of tons that observe only small handful of particles. However, these few particles have surprising properties.

The MINOS experiment measures the properties of neutrinos as they travel 735~km, from Fermilab (near Chicago) to the Soudan mine in northern Minnesota.

The MINERνA and MicroBoone experiments measure the fine detail of interactions between neutrinos and atomic nuclei.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Recent Projects:

Summer 2014

  • Philip Kellogg: Calibration of the MicroBooNE detector with Muon Decays
  • Peter Watkins: Construction and operation of a Remote Operations Center for the MINERvA experiment
Summer 2013
  • Phillip Kellogg and Kodi Weikel - MonteCarlo studies of the MicroBoone liquid argon time projection chamber
Summer 2012
  • Phillip Kellog and Curtis Brown - Development of event display software for the MINERvA and MINOS+ experiments
Summer 2011
  • Molly Clairemont - Reconstruction of the MINERvA energy scale with Michel electrons
  • Matthew Jamieson - Studies of reconstruction efficiency in the MINERvA detector
Summer 2010
  • Molly Clairemont - Search for Michel electrons in MINERvA
  • Jack Brangham - Search for two-track quasi-elastic neutrino events in MINERvA

Atomic Physics Lab (Prof. Aaron Reinhard)

The Rydberg excitation blockade, a process whereby the strong interactions among highly excited atoms suppress or “block” laser excitation, is at the heart of proposals for important future technology, including a computer which operates on the principles of quantum mechanics. It has been shown that processes called state mixing interactions may compromise the effectiveness of the blockade under experimental conditions that are otherwise favorable. In order to enable technological advances in large-scale systems, including a scalable quantum computer, it will be important to thoroughly understand state-mixing interactions and find ways to minimize their effect.

Dr. Reinhard and his students are working to thoroughly characterize the effect of state mixing interactions on the Rydberg excitation blockade in clouds of rubidium atoms which have temperatures of about 0.0001 degrees above absolute zero. They hope to provide the first direct evidence that state mixing interactions lead to reduced excitation suppression. They will also study the effectiveness of the Rydberg excitation blockade under a wide variety of conditions. They hope their work will help guide future researchers who want to choose the most favorable experimental conditions for implementing a quantum computer.

Recent Projects:

Summer 2014

  • Ben Graber: Measurement of the hyperfine energy splittings in the 5P_{3/2} manifold of levels in rubidium
  • Michael Highman: Design and construction of an ultrahigh vacuum system for cold atom experiments
Summer 2013
  • Michael Riggs and Ben Graber - Design and construction of external cavity diode lasers and implementation of atomic spectroscopy

Theory Group (Profs. David Robertson and Uwe Trittmann)

Work in theoretical physics centers on two main areas:

  1. Development of numerical tools for precision ("two-loop") calculations of particle properties in quantum field theory, most notably for theories involving “supersymmetry,” a symmetry relating particles of different spins that may be an integral part of the most fundamental theories of physics. Such tools are needed in the analysis of ongoing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider.
  2. Work on the "light-cone" formulation for quantum field theory, as a basis for the development of new non-perturbative methods of calculation in strongly-interacting systems. This approach involves formulating quantum field theory on a null plane, which can lead to certain dramatic simplifications. Current work is focused on detailing the relation between the light-cone and standard "equal-time" formulations, and studying the approach in low-dimensional test models.

REU Program Participants

Otterbein students also participate in NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates programs around the nation and the world. Recent experiences include:

Summer 2014

  • Evan Heintz, Preventing Perturbations for g-2 (Muon g-2 Collaboration, Fermilab)
Summer 2013
  • Tegan Johnson, Fermi National Accelerator Lab (Accelerator Division)
Summer 2011
  • Jack Brangham, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Physics Department)
Summer 2009
  • Justin Young, University of California, Davis (Physics Department)
Summer 2008
  • Brandi McVety, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland (LHCb Collaboration)

Students have also participated in research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy, Argonne National Laboratory, the McNairs Scholars Program at the University of Maine, and the summer research program at the Kent State University Liquid Crystals Institute.