Research

The research in the Department is focused in four principal areas, which are currently among the most active in the basic and applied physical sciences.  Both experimental and theoretical research is conducted in the Department in each of these areas.

  • Biophysics investigates problems at the interface of physical and life sciences.  Molecular biophysics addresses the contributions of molecular structure and dynamics to biological function.  Spectroscopic investigations of catalysis in metalloenzymes use steady-state and time-resolved techniques of electron paramagnetic resonance and transient optical absorption spectroscopies.  Experimental approaches to elucidating cellular and biomolecular processes use high-sensitivity fluorescence methods, including fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.  Single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer, single molecule particle tracking, as well as magnetic tweezers techniques are used to study nucleic acid structures and protein-DNA interactions.  Theoretical statistical physics is used to understand how biological systems, from molecular circuits and single neurons to brains and populations, learn from their surrounding environment and respond to it.  Numerical and analytic models are used to analyze biological populations to predict their future evolution. 
  • Condensed Matter Physics and Optics group at Emory investigates nanoscale systems where surfaces, interfaces, and confinement effects result in new physical phenomena. Such phenomena are expected to be important for the development of future information technology, novel sensors, and artificial intelligence.  Studies include nanoscale magnetic (spintronic) devices, nano-optical systems and devices, plasmonics, two-dimensional materials, effects of topology on the electronic and magnetic properties of nanostructures, strongly correlated electronic materials, complex magnetic and electronic systems. Our research in optics and light-matter interactions at the nanoscale (nanophotonics) focuses on the influence of dimensionality, structure, composition, and nonlinearities on the electromagnetic phenomena.  Our investigations of the roles of geometry and topology in reduced dimensions, e.g. in atomically thin 2D materials, are aimed to achieve the ability to control and manipulate charge carriers and their degrees of freedom such charge, spin, and pseudo-spin, especially in the context of quantum optics and strong light-matter interactions.
  • Soft Matter Physics research addresses the properties of materials that display both fluid and solid behavior ("complex fluids").  It examines the connection between microscopic and macroscopic properties.  Microscopy techniques are used to study phase transitions in colloidal systems.  Light scattering, rheology, thermal imaging and microfluidics are used to investigate fluid dynamics and multi-phase flow.  Experiments on polymers concern the glass transition, structural relaxation, miscibility, and nanoscale interactions in polymers that affect dynamics at and near interfaces.  Nonequilibrium properties of glasses are studied from molecular to microscopic to macroscopic scales, with jamming and granular studies even used to mimic natural phenomena at geophysical scales.
  • Statistical and Computational Physics addresses both equilibrium and nonequilibrium properties of condensed matter.  Theoretical and computational work investigates the emergence of complex collective behavior, pattern formation under far from equilibrium conditions, the glass transition, fracture propagation, dynamical synchronization in complex networks, self-organized criticality, optimization, nonequilibrium growth phenomena, fractals, and kinetic roughening of surfaces and interfaces.  Theoretical and computational methods are also being applied to problems in biological physics, including vascularization, dynamics of molecular motors, morphogenesis, and intracellular active transport and jamming.

Physics researchers benefit from close interdisciplinary interactions and collaborative opportunities with other graduate programs and research centers at Emory University.  Among the closely collaborating units are the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, which is also located in the Math and Science Center Building, and the Department of Chemistry and the Emerson Center for Scientific Computation located across the street.  Researchers at Emory's renowned School of Medicine are a short walk away.

For more information check out the research website of each faculty member.