Student/Faculty Research

Students who major or plan on majoring within the Department of Physics and Engineering are encouraged to explore research opportunities.  Listed below are the various research labs led by our department faculty as well as recent projects involving students.  Research opportunities exist both during the academic year and over the summer.  Students who have an interest to work in one of these research labs are encouraged to contact the professor directly.

Concrete Lab - Professor Kacie D'Alessandro

Research investigates cementitious materials and concrete structural behavior. Student projects focus on development of concrete mixes, mixing practices, testing practices, material property determination, structural behavior, and structural analysis techniques. In this lab, students learn standard practices of the concrete industry, and they have the opportunity to develop and experiment new methods for testing and evaluating concrete. Current projects focus on high-strength concrete development, structural design methods, and fiber-reinforced concretes.

In this lab, a 300,000-lb capacity compression machine is equipped for compression of cubes and cylinders, split-tension tests of cylinders, modulus of elasticity determination, and small beam tests for determination of the modulus of rupture. Other equipment includes mortar and concrete mixers, a flow table, a slump cone, an air meter, a sieve shaker, a vibrating table, and unit weight buckets. Sulfur capping is possible in a separate lab space equipped with a fume hood.

Kacie D'Alessandro
Assistant Professor of Physics and Engineering
540.458.8887
dalessandrok@wlu.edu

Fluid Diagnostics Lab - Professor Joel Kuehner

Research examines the turbulent mixing mechanics of supersonic flow and free convective heat transfer by applying laser diagnostic techniques. Student projects center on acquiring flow properties such as temperature or velocity using laser-based methods that do not disturb the flow. Students gain experience in developing the laser-based diagnostic methods and in analyzing and interpreting the property measurements to determine how the flow behaves. Practical flow fields under investigation are a supersonic free jet, a model for high-speed propulsion systems, and a heated horizontal cylinder in a water tank, representing the most common heating or cooling element in practical designs from appliances to nuclear fuel storage.

Joel P. Kuehner
Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering, Department Chair
540.458.8153
kuehnerj@wlu.edu

Laser Dynamics Lab - Professor David Sukow

Students conduct experiments involving laser dynamics and applications. Areas of interest include nonlinear dynamics and chaos in semiconductor lasers, high-speed random bit generation, and optical square waves. Students work with optical hardware and laser devices, high-speed photodetectors, digitizing oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, and GPIB interfaces for data capture and analysis.

David W. Sukow
Robert Lee Telford Professor of Physics and Engineering
540.458.8881
sukowd@wlu.edu

Complex Systems Lab - Professor Irina Mazilu

Students work on mathematical and computational modeling of real-life systems using the methods of statistical physics. Areas of interest include: self-assembly of nanoparticles, epidemic models, drug encapsulation models in nanomedicine.

Irina Mazilu
Associate Professor of Physics
540.458.8171
mazilui@wlu.edu


Thin Film Lab - Professor Dan Mazilu

The research involves experimental and theoretical work on the ionic self-assembly of nanoparticles. Students conduct experiments geared toward creating high-performance optical coatings and analyze their properties by spectrophotometry and scanning electron microscopy. The laboratory experiments are complemented by analytical and computational modeling of the thin films.

Dan A. Mazilu
Associate Professor of Physics
540.458.8172
mazilud@wlu.edu

Neural Engineering Lab - Professor Jon Erickson

Bioelectricity Lab: Brains, bugs, and guts. Brains: We grow cultured neural networks on micro-electrode arrays and map how connectivity changes as a result of applying chronic electrical stimulation. Bugs: We build neural-electrical interfaces for hybrid-cockroach robots, and optimize stimulus protocols to make the roach walk along a guided path based on computer commands. Guts: We develop signal processing methods to examine dynamic patterns of electrical activity in healthy vs. diseased intestine. We are also developing open-source hardware for monitoring the very small electrical signals generated by the GI system.

Jonathan Erickson
Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering
540.458.8293
ericksonj@wlu.edu