- Dr. Hanno Weitering, Department Head, Professor, and Joint Insitute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) Chair of Excellence
- Dr. Marianne Breinig, Associate Head and Director of the Graduate Program
- Dr. James E. Parks, Associate Head and Director of Undergraduate Labs
A Few Department Highlights
- 36 faculty; 43 joint, research and adjunct faculty; 31 postdocs, 122 graduate and 90 undergraduate students
- $8.7M in annual research expenditures
- Strong ties to researchers and facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including joint institutes in Advanced Materials, Nuclear Physics and Applications, and Neutron Sciences
- Strong presence at major international laboratories, including the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland
- Recent hires in physics are leading research efforts in fields such as biophysics, condensed matter, and nuclear physics. We have garnered three National Science Foundation CAREER grants in the past three years (Dr. Haidong Zhou, Dr. Jaan Mannik, and Dr. Norman Mannella) and two Outstanding Junior Investigator Awards from the Department of Energy (Dr. Kate Jones in 2009 and Dr. Thomas Papenbrock in 2007). The work supported by these grants includes using nanotechnology to study how bacteria are organized at the cellular level; conducting experiments to understand complex electron systems, which can lead to novel materials designed to meet needs in medicine and industry; and using sophisticated theory and experiments to determine how an atomic nucleus is structured—giving rise to our understanding of how elements are formed.
- Our department makes contributions to research that has broad appeal, including the search for the Higgs Boson, where our faculty and students built and maintain particle tracking detectors at the Large Hadron Collider as part of this historic effort. Our students are also participants in university work that garners national attention, including assembly and verification of an instrument command sequence for a neutron detector on NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars.
- Students (both graduate and undergraduate) have appeared as co-authors on scientific publications in highly-regarded journals. In 2012, for example, UT’s physics students helped define isotopes and develop code as part of a study that redefined the limits of atomic nuclei, the results of which were published in Nature. Our students have the opportunity to work alongside our faculty on research including accelerator physics at the Spallation Neutron Source at ORNL or the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva; neutron science and dark matter; biophysics; programming for interactive scientific animations; nuclear calculations using the most high-performance supercomputers in the world; and growing samples of materials for superconductor studies.
- Our faculty have written invited reviews for prestigious journals (Nature Physics, Reviews of Modern Physics) on the current state of iron-based superconductivity research—presently one of the most intriguing questions in physics and materials science because of its potential energy applications. They have also published high-profile papers on their own work in this area and are pursuing the promise of nano-scale superconductivity, magnetic nanowires, and hydrogen storage—all of which have the potential to revolutionize how we create and use energy.
- A new planetarium in the Nielsen Physics Building will provide the laboratory setting for all UT astronomy lab students and a powerful outreach tool for the department. Regularly-scheduled observation sessions on the roof of the physics building, along with special events such as the Venus Transit viewing, make our resources available to the public in an approachable, engaging fashion.
- Recent prestigious awards for the physics department include the 2012 ORNL Distinguished Scientist honor and the 2011 American Physical Society Tom W. Bonner Prize (the most prestigious award in nuclear physics), both of which went to Dr. Witek Nazarewicz. Seven of our faculty members are Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and 13 are Fellows of the American Physical Society. In the past two years (2012-2013), physics students and faculty have won 13 UT Chancellor’s Honors.