Department of Physics

West Chester University

Chair: Anthony J. Nicastro
127 Merion Science Center
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610.436.2497
Fax: 610.436.3013



At the Physics Department at West Chester University, we are always looking for talented and motivated students to take part in research projects. Students are able to contribute to original research under the mentorship of a faculty member, learning lessons that extend beyond the classroom. Discussed below are fields of research that are being investigated.


Physics of Soft Matter
Dr. Kevin B. Aptowicz
With the aid of optical microscopy, fundamental phenomena, such as freezing, melting, and glass formation are being investigated using systems of colloidal particles. This work is being done in collaboration with Arjun Yodh's group at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dolpin Electron Transport in Nanomaterials
Dr. Tianran Chen
We are exploring two novel nano materials: nanocrystal assemblies and three-dimensional topological insulators. The former have great promise for optoelectronic and photovoltaic devices, while the latter can be applied in spintronics and quantum computing. Our goals are to perform a detailed, theoretical analysis of the disorder effects on electronic transport properties of them.

Dolpin Thin Films Growth and Characterization
Dr. Matthew M. Waite
We are investigating the growth and magnetization of silicon-manganese thin films for use in spintronics applications. In addition, we are using DC and RF magnetron sputtering in order to investigate the growth of FePt nanoparticles and to study the effects of N addition on the magnetic properties of these nanoparticles.
Dolpin Computational Nanomaterials
Dr. Anil K. Kandalam
We study gas-phase and supported nanoclusters, nanoparticles, and surfaces using quantum mechanics based computational methods. The main focus of this research is to have a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure, reactivity, magnetic, and optical properties of the nanostructures. This research is carried out in collaboration with experimentalists at Johns Hopkins and Univ. of Konstanz (Germany).
Dolpin Astronomical Instrumentation
Dr. Robert J. Thornton
The Atacama Cosmology Telescope, at an altitude of 17,500 Cerro Toco, Chile, is mapping the cosmic microwave background in an attempt to constrain fundamental cosmological parameters of the Universe. Dr. Thornton works on the optical, mechanical, and cryogenic design of the telescope and its instruments.
Dolpin Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics
Dr. Anthony J. Nicastro
On-going studies of the mechanics of animal life, including the aerial maneuvers of spinner dolphins [Image by Bob Pitman] and death rolls in alligators. Also, investigating the long-term survival of bacteria trapped in geological formations whose genetic material is subject to damage from ambient ionizing radiation.
Radiation Damage in Nanomaterials
Dr. William H. Sawyer
Using the University's electron microscopes together with the Department of Physics' vacuum deposition equipment and atomic force microscope we are studying the effect of intense electron bombardment of nanocrystals using electron energies between 120 keV and 50 keV.
Orbital Stability in Planetary Systems
Dr. Jeffrey J. Sudol
In collaboration with Dr. Nader Haghighipour (University of Hawaii at Monoa), Dr. Sudol uses a network of computers to run N-body integrations of the evolution of planetary systems. Dr. Sudol also studies the relationship between prior preparation in mathematics and conceptual gain in introductory physics courses. [Artwork by Shermyl Hayes]
Experimental Biomedical Physics
Dr. Shawn Pfeil
Dr. Pfeil develops and applies new experimental tools to understand the physics of biochemical systems. His research combines single-molecule fluorescence techniques, microfluidic mixing, and nano-fabricated structures. This work is done in collaboration with faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dolpin Variable Stars
Dr. Robert J. Thornton
Stars can exhibit changes in their brightness for a variety of reasons. Dr. Thornton and students are working with the West Chester University observatory to study the variability of a select sample of stars with variability timescales that range from hours to years. (image credit: NASA).
Dolpin Aerosol Particle Characterization via Elastic Light Scattering
Dr. Kevin B. Aptowicz
We are exploring the use of angularly-resolved elastic light to identify, or at least characterize, individual aerosol particles. This work is being done in collaboration with scientists at the US Army Research Laboratory and Yale University.
Physics of Liquid Crystals
Dr. Anthony J. Nicastro
Exploring the physics of liquid crystals, especially in regards to optical, thermal, and high-field phenomena at phase transitions. [Image credit: Michael W. Davidson and Florida State University]