DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS
 
 
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Student Research
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Almost all Xavier physics and engineering majors perform scientific research either during the summer or academic year (or both).

These experiences can be part of the department's extensive summer research program, or at other locations, such as other colleges or universities, national laboratories or industrial labs. We regard student research as an integral part of the major experience, rather than as an option for a select few, so we provide extensive support and funding to help our students find opportunities that suit their interests and backgrounds. Our majors have multiple opportunities to present their research experiences in public settings, including national scientific meetings, our physics senior seminar capstone course (which includes a required senior talk) and local student research poster sessions.

How do I get involved in student research?

There are several different ways that students can get involved in research projects, but most student research occurs in the summer. There are opportunities for both on- and off-campus research. Planning for off-campus summer research ("REU programs") should start in December, as applications are due in January and February.

On-Campus Research

The main mode of summer research on campus is to join one of the faculty research teams (see this overview and also individual faculty members' websites for descriptions of research projects). Research can continue (or be initiated) during the school year by arrangement with a faculty member.
Consult other departments and programs for literature regarding their ongoing research projects.
The Center for Undergraduate Research is an on-line clearinghouse for information about the undergraduate research opportunities on the Xavier campus. Their web site provides up-to-date information on undergraduate research programs. They are located in 308 St. Joseph Academic and Health Resource Center. Visit their web site at: http://www.xula.edu/cur/index.php

Off-Campus Research

We strongly encourage students at all levels to apply for off-campus research positions. Many universities, national labs, and observatories host "REU" (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs. Often these are quite competitive, and require applications to be submitted (typically) in February. If you are thinking of participating in an REU program off campus, you can check out the National Science Foundation's list of REU programs. There is also a list of summer research opportunities on this website. Talk to faculty members to get advice and to request letters of recommendation. There are posters on the wall/board near the Physics Tutoring center. Because it is not guaranteed that a given student can do summer research on campus any given summer, we strongly encourage students to start looking into off-campus research opportunities starting in December or, at the very latest, in early January.

Recent experiences:

Optimization of Stacked Inverted Top-Emitting Organic Light-Emitting Diodes

Kendall C. Davis  (junior Physics & Electrical Engineering’ 2015)

Advisor: Bernard Kippelen, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech

Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are light sources that use a thin film of organic materials as the light-emitting component. OLEDs show much promise as display technologies for thin, lightweight, and flexible displays and lighting panels. Conventional OLEDs are formed from an electrolumeniscent organic thin film used as an emissive layer located between a bottom-anode and a top-cathode all on top of a substrate. They are generally bottom-emitting, such that the light is emitted from the bottom through a transparent contact such as indium tin oxide. However, OLEDs can also be top-emitting such that the light is emitted through a semi-transparent top-electrode, allowing them to be deposited on opaque substrates. In addition,  an inflexible indium tin oxide contact is no longer needed, allowing for flexible devices. In an inverted OLED, the electrode positions are switched, with the anode on top and the cathode on bottom, making inverted OLEDs more conveniently incorporated into active-matrix displays which use superior n-type driving technology. Here, stacked inverted top-emitting  OLEDs are fabricated and optimized. Stacked OLEDs are devices in which a series of emissive units are stacked on top of one another with a charge-generating layer in between, allowing more light to be produced at lower current densities, resulting in longer lifetimes. The OLEDs reported are developed in lab through vacuum thermal evaporation and characterized using a sourcemeter, calibrated photodiode, and spectrometer. Specifically, the effects of varying layer properties such as Al and LiF interlayer thicknesses are reported.

Electronic and Optical Properties of CVD Grown Graphene

Krista Burton (senior Physics’ 2014)

Advisor: Zhigang Jiang, School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology

The rapid advancements of the past few decades have transformed America into a technologically dependent society with all people owning and relying on their own personal electronic devices. Since consumer demand for electronics are at an all time high, companies invest multiple millions of dollars in research and development to attack the problem of producing smaller, more efficient devices at reasonable prices. Graphene is a one atom thick layer of graphite with a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice. It has sparked the interests of many researchers for its unique electronic properties such as room temperature ballistic conduction and high electron mobility. A rise in the interest of graphene for applications such as transistors and touch screen electronics has occurred due to the material’s abundance, high transmission ability, and low resistive qualities. My lab has spent a great amount of time studying the more unexplored magneto-optical properties of CVD grown graphene films in vacuum environments. My work this summer will go towards testing the transmittance and resistance for their future measurements and characterization of graphene properties. I used an in-lab furnace to grow multiple samples of graphene for an ongoing optical project, and further processed and analyzed two samples using the following cleanroom devices: the Karl Suss RC8 Spin Coater, the Karl Suss MA-6 Mask Aligner, and the Plasma Therm RIE.

Semiconducting Polymers for Sensing and Electronic Applications by Controlled Radical Polymerization

Ogechi Nwoko (junior Physics & Biomedical Engineering’ 2015)

Advisors: Evgueni E. Nesterov  (Chemistry, Louisiana State University) and Anderson Sunda-Meya (Physics, Xavier University of Louisiana)

Semi-conducting polymers are an important class of conjugated polymers. They have been a subject of interest since the 1970s because of their many applications in plastic optoelectric devices. Some of the most prominent of these devices include light emitting diodes (LEDs), organic field effect transistors (OFETs), nonlinear optical devices, and plastic lasers. Semi-conducting polymers are much more easily processed when soluble. Polymerization increases solubility by adding long alkyl chains to the aromatic unit. Electroactive polymers do have some disadvantages in terms of chemical stability and conductivity. The best chance for these polymers to have any commercial applications is in printed and flexible electronics. For this reason, methods for polymers to be solution processed have been developed. There are a number of different methods for synthesizing semiconducting polymers but the most efficient procedures modify inorganic surfaces with covalently attached conjugated polymers. I polymerized via an aromatic counterpart of Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization (ATRP). After this process was complete a UV-visible spectra was taken on the resulting polymers. Polythiophene and Poly-p-phenylene are good conjugate polymers for surface polymerization by controlled radical polymerization. Both of polymers showed intense optical density in UV spectra, meanwhile they revealed different maximum absorption peak, 515 nm and 390 nm, respectively.

Optical Tweezing: The Effects of Ceragenin-124 Coated
Microspheres on Staphylococcus aureus

Amber Robinzine, junior Biology and Biomedical Engineering’ 2015

Advisors: Randy Duran(Chemistry, Louisiana State University) and Anderson Sunda-Meya (Physics, Xavier University of Louisiana)

At the beginning of the summer I learned how to use the optical trap. This included doing calibrations that must be done to be sure that the laser is aligned, trapping and moving particles, and capturing image and live video of what I was doing on the machine. In the beginning I also was able to do a little bit of pipette pulling. Over the entire summer, I did loads of pipetting and dilutions. The main skill that I can say I was able to build on during the summer is my communication skills.  The optical trap was just set up at the beginning of the program so we ran into multiple problems along the way. We had to work with two people from the company who are in Germany via email and Skype for any technical support. Also, just having to keep my mentor and graduate students informed as to what was going on in the lab while they were out of the country helped build on my communication skills also.

One of the main benefits of my summer research is that I am now better prepared for my research at my home institution. We have a smaller, simpler optical trap that I started putting together during the spring semester; once I return, I will know how to utilize it. Seeing my graduate students so enthused about their research excites me and pushes me to find my knack. This summer experience has made me more independent and productive. I was given the wheel the very first week to take control and be productive over the summer. I always had people there just in case I needed them, but I was able to take control and do what I needed to do. I did not expect to run into all of the problems with the machine that we had; however, I did not realize this machine was not only new to me, but also new to the lab and utilized new software. Overall, I have had a wonderful experience and am already looking to have a similar experience somewhere new next summer!

Holographic Measurements of Colloidal Transport Properties

Breanna Bell, sophomore Physics and Electrical Engineering’ 2016, & Jasmine Jones, Junior Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 2015

Advisors: David Grier (Physics, New York University) and Anderson Sunda-Meya (Physics, Xavier University of Louisiana)
  
The objective of this study is to establish the precision and accuracy of the holographic video microscopy (HVM) by measuring the Boltzmann constant. The experiment involves measuring the diffusion of a 1.5μm polystyrene sphere in order to obtain the diffusion coefficient and using the coefficient to measure the Boltzmann constant. The trajectories of the functionalized colloidal spheres will be analyzed to establish how surface functionalization influences colloidal transport.

 
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