Research Opportunities

Faculty research groups

Performing research with professors on campus is a significant component of the physics major. During the academic year, students can perform research for independent study credit. During the summer, students can participate in an 8-week summer internship. Students are encouraged early on to visit laboratories and speak with professors about applying for research opportunities.

Hands-on research

A significant component of the physics major at Mount Holyoke College is working in labs with professors. In this video, students use atomic force microscopy and thermal mapping, and now have the capacity to fabricate solar cells and organic LEDs (OLEDs) thanks to a new lab.

The Labs

This is where faculty-mentored student research happens ...

Next Generation Photovoltaics

Alexi Arango's lab focuses on three projects: cascade energy photovoltaics, quantum dot photovoltaics, and electro-modulation imaging. These projects have the eventual goal of constructing efficient tandem cells, ultimately leading to large-area, lightweight, flexible solar cells.

Nanoscience, Materials Science and Applied Physics Research

Abstract image of carbon nanotubes forming into macroscopic webs.
Kathy Aidala and her team are exploring the areas of magnetic nanorings, semiconductors and the adhesion and elasticity of "squishy things". Photo courtesy of Engineering at Cambridge Flickr.

Squishy Physics: Mechanics of Fluids and Materials

Kerstin Nordstrom, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Physics
Kerstin Nordstrom's CRAM Lab (Complex Rheology And Many-many body systems) studies how materials flow and deform. When a fluid (or fluid-like) material is complex and made of multiple components, their interactions and physical structure give rise to interesting flow behaviors. The CRAM lab experimentally studies these complex systems using high-speed video analysis and microscopy techniques, and supplements experimentation with simulations and mathematical modeling.

Medical Physics

Teresa Herd's Research Lab
Teresa Herd's lab uses quantitative ultrasound on cells outside the cellular matrix to identify key differences between cancerous and healthy cells. The speed of sound, attenuation, and backscatter coefficients are used to model scatterer size. This research and a database of cell differences can establish a greater understanding of ultrasonic interactions with tissue to inform clinical studies on using ultrasound to diagnose or detect cancer.

Theoretical Physics

Mark Peterson and his students specialize in mathematical modeling and other theoretical problems, sometimes in support of the experimental labs.

Theoretical and Computational Physics

Spencer Smith’s lab uses the mathematical ideas of nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory, as well as topology, to provide insight into the behavior of fluid systems. This involves constructing and playing around with computational models.

Research Facilities

  • LC Technology Glovebox: Working closely with LC Technology Solutions Inc., Alexi Arango's lab gloveboxes were designed and outfitted with a number of innovative features, including LED lighting, vented three-way minature antechambers and centralized vacuum.  
  • Scanning Probe Microscopy: The scanning probe microscope in Kathy Aidala's lab is an Asylum Research MFP-3D, which provides full access to the code controlling the SPM and thereby provides customizability. 
  • The Science Center Microscopy Facility: The Science Center Microscopy Facility was formally organized in 2006 when the electron microscopes and several research-quality light microscopes from several science departments were designated to be part of an interdisciplinary facility. 
  • UMass Conte Nanotechnology Cleanroom Lab: The Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing's mission is to be a leading research and education center for the development of efficient process platforms and versatile tools for the two and three-dimensional integration of components and systems across multiple length scales. 

Student researchers

Ye Zhang

Research at the Nano Level

Ye Zhang '20: Starting strong with electrical properties research in the Aidala Lab at Mount Holyoke College.
Gillian Hagen

Fearless Research in Solar Cells

Gillian Hagen '20: Joining Alexi Arango's research team as a first-year student built confidence in the classroom and the laboratory.
Amy Longstreth + Teresa Herd

Cell Ultrasound

Amy Longstreth '17: Her goal is to pursue biomedical engineering and she is working in the Herd Lab.

Modeling the Properties of Granular Materials

Emma Thackray '18: In Professor Nordstrom's lab, Emma is studying project the behavior of photo-elastic particles.