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Research in the Department of Physics & Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is home to cutting-edge research on a broad range of topics in physics, astrophysics, and astronomy. Some work is based in high-tech labs here on campus, while other projects involve international collaborations at facilities around the globe. Below are links to descriptions of our main research areas.

Our astronomy faculty members work on the nature of dark matter, the large scale structure and expansion rate of the Universe, the relation of galaxies to theirdark matter halos, the energetics of galaxy clusters, the history of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, the demographics of massive black holes, the Milky Way’s interstellar medium, the astrophysics of compact objects, the sources of the highest energy photons, and the formation of planetary systems.
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Astroparticle Physics
The University of Utah is engaged in cutting-edge research in cosmic rays, gamma-rays and neutrinos. We have a long and distinguished history of leading research into cosmic rays, extremely rare and mysterious visitors from space, detected in the Utah desert. We are part of international collaborations including the Telescope Array Project, VERITAS, HAWC, CTA and IceCube.

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Current biophysics research at the University of Utah 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.
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Condensed Matter Physics
Physicists at the University ofUtah 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.

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High Energy Physics
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.

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Physics Education Research
Physics Education Research (PER) is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor that studies how people learn the content and culture of physics. Investigations in PER are diverse and include looking at student learning in the classroom all the way upto the policies that govern the physics community and affect physicist’s careers. Students of PER move on to many interesting careers, including academia, high school teaching, consulting, university administration, entrepreneurship and more.
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Research Experiences for Undergrads

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah offers a research experience program in physics and astronomy that allows undergraduate students to work closely with a faculty mentor and their research group on an individual project.

All interested students are invited to apply for this 10-week summer program.

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