Academic Programs

Research Opportunities

The research specialties within the department which can be selected for Ph.D. thesis work are materials science (including nanoscience), elementary particle physics, medical physics, and accelerator physics. Students can also do astrophysics research in collaboration with scientists at Fermilab; though except for exceptional circumstances only M.S. research can be done in this area. See the Research button on your left for up-to-date information on research opportunities.

Materials Science

Materials science (or condensed matter physics) studies microscopic and macroscopic physical properties of matter, such as high temperature superconductivity, whereas particle physics (or high energy physics) studies the basic forces and particles at the sub-atomic level. Both areas utilize accelerators and other facilities at the two premiere national laboratories, Argonne, and Fermilab, which are located within an hour's drive of NIU. Most of the department's faculty collaborate with physicists at the national labs and utilize equipment there. Some staff members from Fermilab and Argonne teach courses at NIU and occasionally supervise the research efforts of our graduate students. Research interests in the department also include teaching methodology.

The materials physics faculty includes two theorists and nine experimentalists. Their work is supported by NSF, Argonne, Amoco, and the Department of Energy research awards. The current focus of the theoretical effort is on the magnetic behavior of magnetoresistive oxides, including the role of lattice distortions, charge hopping, and spin fluctuations. The experimental group studies the properties of novel materials. These include superconductors, colossal magnetoresistive materials, and thin-film materials produced via metal-organic chemical vapor deposition techniques. Properties of materials are studied using Mossbauer spectroscopy and electron microscopes located at NIU, and photon and neutron beams at Argonne. NIU is a member of the Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources, and contributes to the construction, operation, and exploitation of synchrotron beam lines at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source.

Elementary Particle Physics and Medical Physics

The elementary particle physics faculty includes one theorist and five experimentalists. Their work is supported by NSF, Fermilab, and the DOE. The current focus of the theoretical effort is to explore extensions to the Standard Model. This includes relating grand unification models to experimental constraints such as particle masses and exploring the impact of various supersymmetry models. The experimental group's primary efforts are the D0, Mu2E and muon g-2 experiments at Fermilab and ATLAS at CERN. D0, which co-discovered the top quark in 1995 and found evidence of the Higgs boson in 2012, completed data taking in 2011 and is now in the final stages of data analysis. The ATLAS experiment which co-discovered the Hihhs Boson in 2012, will continue taking data for the next decade. NIU has involvement in aspects of the forward calorimter and trigger. Physics interests of the NIU group include searches for multiple boson production and studies of the topquark. We also collaborate on the two muon experiments at Fermilab, and are currently doing simulations and detector R&D for Mu2E and prototyping and testing straw tubes for g-2. NIU is also conducting simulation and detector development work for detectors operating at a possible future international linear electron-positron collder (an ILC or Muon Collider).

The detector development group of NICADD is working with NIU's medical physicists to develop a next generation detector system for proton radiography (2D images) and proton tomography (3D images) using detectors made from scintillator and read out by silicon photodetectors.

Accelerator Physics

NIU conducts accelerator research and development in conjunction with studies related to future upgrades of the Fermilab and Argonne facilities. Three NIU faculty are involved in accelerator R&D with support from the Deptartments of Education, Energy, and Defense, and the NSF. Some of this group also are doing astrophysics studies.

Students can pursue accelerator research as part of the Fermilab-University Ph.D. program . The NIU accelerator physics graduate program offers a number of opportunities in electron and proton beam physics. Much of the accelerator research is sponsored by the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development (NICADD). NICADD, located at NIU, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) are collaborating on the prototyping and construction of accelerating structures for the ILC.

Also, NICADD and Fermilab together operate the Fermilab/NICADD Photoinjector Laboratory (FNPL). The photoinjector is a prototype electron source beam for the next generation of linear electron colliders. Current research projects at FNPL include characterization and optimization of the beam, flat beam studies, plasma acceleration, generation of coherent synchrotron radiation, and beam channeling studies. This is a very active program that offers a great number of opportunities for graduate students. Students also are able to pursue research topics with the staff at Fermilab or Argonne which include proton beam studies, the Rare Isotope Accelerator, instrumentation, and other research areas.

Graduate students are encouraged to attend conferences and report on their research. This is supported through the Albright Travel Awards which are made yearly by the department