The Department of Physics and Astronomy engages in theoretical and experimental research that spans a broad spectrum of modern physics. Our commitment to excellence and success in research is reflected in the strong international reputations of our faculty and programs. The Department of Physics and Astronomy provides research in these areas:
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Cosmic Rays
- Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
- Particle Physics
- Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics
Below is an overview of these research areas. Use the menu on the left to view detailed information about our various research groups.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Black holes, the Big Bang, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, pulsars, quasars, active galactic nuclei: the Universe is a beautiful and fascinating place. While astronomy is the most ancient of sciences, it also is largely unknown, and poorly understood. Recent technological advances place us at the cusp of a scientific revolution in our understanding of the Universe. The University of Utah has long been a leader in theoretical astrophysics, gamma-ray astronomy, and cosmic-ray astronomy. In the last couple of decades we have grown this program to include a broad range of interests, including high-energy astrophysics, cosmology, large scale structure, galactic origin and structure, and black holes. Learn More...
Astrophysicists study celestial bodies such as stars and galaxies by observing their light emissions and particles. These two fields operate on very different scales: one deals with subatomic particles, the other with the Universe at large. Yet they intertwine when addressing some of our most profound scientific questions, such as "What is the origin fate of the universe?" and "What is the nature of dark energy that drives the accelerating expansion of the universe?"
Researchers at the University of Utah’s Department of Physics and Astronomy are carrying out large-scale computer calculations to recreate the conditions of the quark-gluon plasma. We are able to study the formation of protons and neutrons as the Universe cooled. Such information is vital to our understanding of how the Universe came into being. Learn More...
At the University of Utah, scientists engage in cutting edge research in biophysics and related areas. In the Department of Physics and Astronomy, biophysics research is pushing the limits of nanometer-scale optical microscopy techniques, with the goal of studying molecular-scale biological systems; studying the process by which a new enveloped virus is created on the membrane of its host cell; and studying the properties of molecular motors, focusing on how these motors work together, how they are regulated, and how their functioning is disrupted or altered in various diseases. Learn More...
Surrounding the Earth is a constant shower of subatomic particles called cosmic rays. Many originate from our own Sun, but some come from far more distant and mysterious origins. The Telescope Array Project is designed to study the rarest, most mysterious, and highest energy cosmic rays. Over time scientists hope to unravel the nature of these mysterious visitors, their origins, and to uncover new knowledge about the universe. The University of Utah has a long and distinguished history of leading research into these extremely rare and mysterious visitors from space. International collaborations like the Telescope Array Project are helping to ensure the University of Utah remains a world leader in the new and growing field of astroparticle physics.
Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
Moore’s Law is the observation that computing speed doubles every 18 months; we expect our computers to become smaller, faster and cheaper. In the last few years, Moore’s Law appears to be reaching its physical limit. Electronics cannot get any smaller. Physicists at the University of Utah are conducting fundamental research on materials that could hail the next advance in electronics: organic semiconductors, non-linear optical solids, high-Tc superconductors, spin electronics, quasicrystals, etc. The University of Utah is recognized as a leader in developing techniques for understanding the properties of these materials, including atomic force microscopy and tunable infrared lasers. Our condensed matter experimentalists also study other exotic materials, such as hyperpolarized noble gases, atomically thin materials, and low temperature quantum solids.
The recent announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson rocked the world. The Higgs Boson, or “God Particle” is the particle within the Standard Model of Particle Physics that gives mass to all other particles. While the discovery of the Higgs Boson does solve one problem of particle physics, there are many problems yet unsolved. Particle physics research at the University of Utah is investigating physics beyond the standard model. Researchers are using connections between theoretical particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics, solving strong interactions of quarks and gluons through numerical simulation, and working on various problems in the frontier of theoretical physics including particle theory, condensed matter theory and mathematical physics. Learn More...
Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics
Research topics of the condensed matter theory group cover essentially all problems of current interest: transport and optical properties of disordered interacting electron systems, 2-D electron gas with spin-orbit interactions, physics of graphene, the integer and fractional quantum Hall effect, correlated electron systems, quantum phase transitions and various frustrated spin models. Transport properties of strongly correlated systems subject to various external perturbations are also being investigated. Learn More...