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Jeff Coffer, Professor of Chemistry
Project: New Porous Cardiovascular Materials.

Cardiovascular disease remains a serious health threat to the American population. One common treatment modality involves the use of synthetic stents to remove blockages in affected vessels. However, the failure of such devices in vivo remains a concern. One strategy proposed by our group centers on the design and fabrication of so-called ‘smart stents’ that involve a combination of metals and the well-established backbone of the electronic industry, semiconducting silicon (Si). The goals of this specific project are two fold: (1) fabricate and characterize new combinations of biocompatible metals with silicon; followed by (2) an analysis of the biocompatibility and mechanical properties of these new materials via a cellular body fluid. The first part of this project, fabrication, has two components. The first involves the preparation of a systematic series of composites of varying iron to silicon ratios, incorporating different structural types of silicon (mesoporous, nanosphere, nanowire, microcrystal) into the composite. Characterization of these composites will be done using a combination of optical and scanning electron microscopy, and elemental energy dispersive x-ray analysis. After an optimal formulation has been established, we will then attempt to construct more authentic tube-like geometries to confirm the size/shape independence of such structures. In the second phase, the chemical stability in common simulated plasma solutions will be evaluated, along with an assessment of their mechanical properties (hardness and elasticity).
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Hana Dobrovolny, Assistant Professor of Physics

Project: Examining experimental methods for determining drug efficacy.

The research program aims to develop an accurate within host mathematical model for influenza which can be used to help the development and testing of antivirals and vaccines. Models can be used to test a wide variety of drug treatment or vaccine protocols, which can then be used to guide clinical trials. Models can also be used to simulate drug or vaccine treatment in high risk patients, reducing the risk to these patients. Below, I outline some of the projects students can undertake within this program. Students will use a mathematical model of seasonal influenza infections to simulate experimental methods currently used to evaluate drug efficacy. The aim of this project is to determine which parameters are measured by each of the experimental methods and to develop new experiments to extract drug efficacy parameters.

For more information:


Peter Frinchaboy, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Project: Fundamental Parameters of Star Clusters.

Star clusters are a key tracer of the chemical and dynamical evolution of the Galaxy; however, most remain poorly studied.  New surveys, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS/APOGEE), Spitzer/GLIMPSE I, II, 3D and 360 surveys and the ESA Gaia Satellite, allow the study of hundreds of clusters that have previously been neglected.  The uniform photometry and spectroscopy data from these surveys allow the detail analysis to be conducted in a uniform way.  The student will learn basic astronomical software and techniques and be involved in the analysis of one or more clusters to isolate the cluster from the contaminating field population and determine the cluster’s fundamental parameters (e.g., age, distance, reddening, chemical abundances).
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Karol Gryczynski, W. A. Moncrief Professor of Physics
Project: Novel Methods for Ultrasensitive Detection of Diseases.
For many years fluorescence technology has been the foundation of numerous analyses in sensing, medical diagnostics, biotechnology, and gene expression. As an example, DNA sequencing by fluorescence was first reported in 1987, resulting in completion of the sequencing of the human genome by 2001, just 14 years later. For last 20 years fluorescence detection is considered as one of the most sensitive technologies that has been successfully replacing biochemical assays and radioactivity in medical testing. Fluorescence methods have quickly extended to microscopy enabling single molecule detection and single molecule studies. Recently emerging fluorescence-based technology which takes advantage of quantum-photonic interactions of fluorophores with surface plasmons in nanometer thin metallic films and nanostructures opens novel possibility for further enormous enhancement in fluorescence sensitivity. This new concept for developing detection devices for fast and reliable biochemical and biomedical detection presents incredible potential for use in microscopy, biological assays, immunoassays, and for studying biophysical properties of macromolecules on a nanoscale level. Our goal is to utilize these new nano-photonic phenomena for development of generic assay platform for detecting physiological markers. Our interest is to develop technologies that could be easily adopted for detection of cardiac and cancer markers directly in blood. Coronary heart disease and cancer are leading causes of mortality in developed countries across the world. Developing reliable methods of early blood and serum maker detection is a crucial step towards risk stratification and successful preventive care. The student projects would involve participating at various steps of the development like antibody and sample preparation, nonophotoni platform assembly, or test measurements.
For more information:


Benjamin Janesko, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Project: "Rung 3.5" DFT functional modeling.

The Janesko group develops and applies electronic structure theory for molecules, surfaces, and solids. We are developing a new class of "Rung 3.5" approximate exchange-correlation functionals for Kohn-Sham density functional theory (DFT). We also apply standard and new DFT methods in computational simulations of transition metal catalysts for alkyl cross coupling, organocatalysts for organophosphorous synthesis, heterogeneous catalysts, ionic liquids for lignocellulose dissolution, and conjugated polymers. The Janesko group develops new electronic structure approximations, primarily in density functional theory (DFT), and applies them to problems in renewable energy and "green" chemistry.

For more information:


Rhiannon Mayne, Assistant Professor of Geology and Curator of the Monnig Meteorite Gallery
Project: Characterizing meteorites in the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Collection.

My research interests lie primarily in the interdisciplinary field of planetary science, which encompasses physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology.  I am interested in how planetary bodies like the Earth differentiate, or how they form a crust, mantle, and core.  The answers to this question are not found on Earth because it is an active planet and does not preserve its earliest history.  However, the asteroids have not been subjected to the same processes and, as such, preserve the processes occurring during the early Solar System.  In order to study the formation of differentiated asteroids I employ both ground-based telescope date and meteorite studies, as the vast majority of meteorites come from the asteroid belt. 
Planetary science research at TCU benefits greatly from the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Collection, which is one of the largest University based meteorite collections.  Projects will be tailored to student interests and depend on what courses the student has taken so far in their undergraduate careers but will likely include topics such as characterizing unclassified meteorites in the collection and comparing spectroscopic data of asteroids to similar meteorite data.
For more information:


Bruce Miller, Professor of Physics
Project: Dynamical Systems Theory and Computation.
Getting a grip on the role of nonlinearity in Physics has produced the Chaos revolution. During the last two decades it has influenced nearly every branch of physics from the instabilities of stellar atmospheres to the beating of the human heart. In my group we employ idealized nonlinear models, which are amenable to both numerically accurate simulation and mathematical analysis to study the statistical physics and thermodynamics of systems with long-range forces. These models provide a fertile testing ground for current theories. Recently we have used a dynamical systems approach to investigate models of both gravothermal catastrophe and structure formation in the early universe. Experimentalists at the University of Texas have employed our related work on the theory of low dimensional accelerated billiards to demonstrate chaos with laser-trapped atoms. In addition, mathematicians have proved the existence of strong ergodic properties, i.e. chaos, in these models and educators have incorporated them into popular texts. Past experience at TCU has shown that motivated undergraduate science majors enjoy solving problems involving nonlinear dynamics. Moreover, they have made useful contributions to a number of articles published in the standard literature. In carrying out their work, students become acquainted with basic dynamical methods and develop valuable programming and model building skills. In addition they are introduced to some of the seminal literature in the field and learn how to use on-line resources to determine what has already been established by others.
For more information:


C.A. Quarles, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Emeritus Tutor
Project: Characterization of materials using positron annihilation spectroscopy.
The two types of positron annihilation spectroscopy: (1) positron lifetime and (2) Doppler broadening are complementary and are widely used to characterize defects and voids in materials. The positron lifetime is sensitive to the density of electrons in a material, while the Doppler broadening of the annihilation gamma ray is sensitive to the momentum distribution of the electrons in a material. Positron spectroscopy is readily accessible to an undergraduate with some experience in physics or chemistry and is very well suited to a summer REU project. The basic principles and experimental techniques can be learned quickly, and the student gets hands-on experience in sample preparation, running experiments, data collection and data analysis. The scope of a problem can be adjusted so that the student typically can complete a project in ten weeks that can be presented at a scientific meeting such as the Texas Section meeting of the American Physical Society. A variety of materials are currently under investigation including metal oxides, metal alloys, polymer films, and polymer composites with carbon, metal or nano-particle fillers.
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Magnus L. Rittby, Associate Dean of College of Science & Eng., Professor of Physics
Project: Quantum Mechanical Scattering, Molecular Structure and Dynamics.
The students will be involved in the development and application of new and existing quantum theoretical models in atomic and molecular physics. Small projects involving the interpretation of experimental data from the TCU molecular spectroscopy group enables a REU student to interact with both theoretical as well as experimental parts of a physical problem, possibly in the collaboration with another REU student. Anticipated projects will focus on modeling of quantum mechanical scattering as well as molecular structure and dynamics.


Yuri M. Strzhemechny, Assistant Professor of Physics
Project: Optoelectronic surface properties in nanoscale ZnO.
Nanoscale ZnO came to the forefront as an object of vigorous research because of the potential of this material to yield numerous breakthrough applications, the effectiveness of which strongly depends on the microscopic properties. Many of such applications involve essentially surface phenomena, which in turn strongly depend on the surface quality, and hence on the surface state properties. However, as of today, despite a substantial research effort in recent years on ZnO systems with nanosclale dimensions, understanding of these properties is largely lacking. It turns out that even the most fundamental questions are presently not answered, such as the existence of localized purely surface electronic states at clean stoichiometric surfaces, as well as the influence of surface defects (intrinsic and extrinsic) on the electronic surface structure in nanocrystalline zinc oxide. It is possible that at the moment the ZnO surface is too complicated a system for unambiguous theoretical predictions because of the multiplicity of control parameters, and hence only an adequate experimental approach can settle the uncertainties. Thus, the main task of the ongoing research activities in our lab is to experimentally establish a clear picture of the surface electronic states in the studied material. ZnO nanostructures reveal a remarkable variety and ease of control of morphologies, and this can be a key factor allowing for a systematic investigation addressing these fundamental issues. We will offer REU students an opportunity to investigate multiple nanoscale ZnO systems with a wide range of nanomorphologies, dimensionalities, sizes, and functionalities. The students will learn a range of important and popular surface-specific and surface-sensitive characterization probes and processing tools (surface photovoltage spectroscopy, scanning probe microscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy, remote plasma treatment) as well as other defect-sensitive probes and procedures (photoluminescence spectroscopy, resistive annealing, etc.). A separate question addressed in the context of this approach will be how one can controllably manipulate the electronic structure in nanocrystalline ZnO. Design and modification of experimental hardware and software will be encouraged during the REU collaboration.

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