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
- Physics Education Research
- Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
- Particle Physics
- Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics
Below is an overview of these research areas. Use the menu on the right to view detailed information about our various research groups.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Our astronomy and astrophysics faculty members carry out exciting research on the frontiers of astronomy and astrophysics. We work on the nature of dark matter, the large scale structure and expansion rate of the Universe, the relation of galaxies to their dark 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. Learn More...
The University of Utah is a key contributor to cutting-edge survey science. Faculty play leadership roles in the DESI survey and the SDSS-IV and -V surveys, with the University being a full institutional member and data repository of SDSS. Our faculty, postdocs, and students also use a wide range of world-class facilities in their research, including ALMA, HST, Gemini, VLT, Chandra, NuSTAR, and XMM, and are involved in gamma-ray telescopes VERITAS, HAWC, and CTA. Analysis and simulations are performed at the University’s Center for High Performance Computing. We also run a high impact astronomy outreach program and participate in efforts to preserve Utah's unparalleled dark skies. Our faculty are committed to training a talented and diverse group of students and postdocs. 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.
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 up
to 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. A research program in PER can be undertaken both at the undergraduate and graduate level at the University of Utah and students are always encouraged to apply.
The PERU group collaborates with scholars across the world and is always looking for new research
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...