Research in Physics
Drexel's Department of Physics is recognized as a worldwide leader in physics research, providing students with opportunities across the fields of astrophysics and cosmology, biophysics, condensed matter, particle physics and physics education research. Our physics faculty and researchers are active members of several international collaborations including the Sloan Digital Survey, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, and Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica.
Physics Research Facilities
Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences houses a number of physics research facilities dedicated to helping faculty and students further the field.
- The Numerical Astrophysics Facility emphasizes theoretical and numerical studies of stars, star clusters, the early universe, galaxy distributions, cosmology modeling, and gravitational lensing. The facility employs special purpose high-performance computers, such as the Gravity Pipeline Engine (GRAPE), a new Beowulf cluster (128 processors, 128G RAM, 2 TB RAID disk), and a system using Graphics Processing Units to achieve computational speeds of up to a trillion floating point operations per second.
- The Joseph R. Lynch Observatory houses a 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope equipped with SBIG CCD camera.
- Drexel faculty and students actively analyze data from the Sloan Digital Survey, which operates a 2.5-m telescope at Apache Point, New Mexico, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope to be built in Chile (2020).
- Biomanipulation and Microscopy Laboratories: Four optical tables and six research grade microscopes are configured to perform microscopic spectroscopy and manipulation on solutions and individual cells. A spatial light modulator allows spatial patterns to be encoded on samples and explored; all microscopes are temperature-controlled with state-of-the-art cameras, including a 2,000 frame-per-second high-speed system. Each optical table is also equipped with high power lasers for photolysis or fluorescence spectroscopy. Microfluidic attachments are available for use, and a small microfluidic fabrication facility has also been established.
- Experimental Biophysics Lab for studies of proteins and biomimetic lipids.
- The Computational Biophysics Facility also includes (i) a Beowulf cluster with 46 dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU (736 cores) and 12Gb of RAM nodes plus a master with 1Tb of storage and 24Gb of RAM, (ii) a Beowulf cluster with 44 dual-core Xeon CPU (344 cores),(iii) a dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 24Gb RAM and 3Tb disk with two Tesla C2050 GPU CUDA-accelerated graphics card, (iv) a dual Quad-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 8Gb RAM and 4Tb disk with an NVIDIA N280 GPU CUDA-accelerated graphics card, (v) a quad 8-core hyperthreaded Xeon CPU workstation with 128Gb RAM and 16Tb total disk, (vi) a 72Tb file server with 12Gb RAM, (vii) a 96Tb quad 6-core file server with 64Gb RAM, (viii) and several Linux workstations connected through a gigabit network.
Condensed Matter Physics Research
- The Energy Materials Research Laboratory is devoted to atomic scale investigations of materials for energy. As the size of the system shrinks, conventional bulk thermodynamics becomes irrelevant and we enter the realm of mesoscopic physics. The equilibrium behavior of small systems is governed by the prevailing number of surface atoms that behave differently from the bulk ones. The electronic properties are also subject to reduced number of available electronic states. We take advantage of different scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to elucidate the local electronic properties of materials that are relevant to solving energy problems. The laboratory research is funded by grants from NSF and DOE.
- The Ultrafast Electron Diffraction Laboratory investigates structural dynamics in nanoscale materials at timescales that are fundamental to materials science and condensed matter physics. The techniques are based on exciting matter with light and probing the response of the lattice with electrons. The research interests of the lab are in a range of phenomena and systems including phase transformations induced by strong laser excitation, phase transformations in strongly correlated systems, generation and detection of coherent lattice vibrations, and characterization of materials properties of graphene, few-layer-graphene, ultra-thin graphite & nanocrystalline diamond.
- The Ultra-Low Temperature Laboratory includes a dilution refrigerator, 3He and 4He cryostats and microwave sources to study quantum phenomena in nano and microscale devices, superconducting qubits, nanostructures and quantum fluids and solids.
Particle Physics Research
- The Drexel particle physics group contributes to neutrino oscillation experiments at different baselines, including the DUNE long baseline experiment hosted by Fermilab, the Double Chooz experiment in France, and the PROSPECT short baseline experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We are also active in the IceCube neutrino telescope located at the geographic South Pole, the EXO-200 experiment located in NM, and the PICO dark matter experiment located at SNOLAB in Canada.
- The Bubble Chamber Laboratory develops superheated-liquid detectors for rare-interaction searches.
Laboratory for High-Performance Computational Physics Research
- In addition to the department computing cluster (15 linux workstations), high-performance computing resources include a dual-processor server with two Xeon E5-2650 processors (16 cores), 128 GB of RAM, and two Xeon Phi P5110 co-processor cards (480 cores). Department researchers also have access to a cluster of 18 Dell PowerEdge C6145 servers (AMD Opteron 6378 Piledriver CPU's, 64 cores/server, 256 GB RAM/server) with a total of 1152 cores and 4.5TB RAM.
For more information about Drexel physics research areas and facilities, please contact:
Michael Vogeley, PhD
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Physics