Faculty Research

The NMU Physics faculty participates in a lot of different research. Some of the projects that they are currently working on are explained below:


Solid State Physics Research at NMU
To learn more, check out Professor Rick Mengyan's website.


Research Results Published of Experiments Measuring the Target Spin Asymmetries for Helium-3 (He-3)
Professor William Tireman (Physics) and Bradley Schoenrock (NMU 2010) in collaboration with the Hall A Collaboration at Jefferson National Laboratory in Newport News, VA have recently published data from a 2009 experiment designed to measure the target spin asymmetries for Helium-3 (He-3).  These results extend the currently available data and significantly increase the data precision.  This is necessary to continue the refinement of the physics models of the structure of the

He-3 nucleus which is made of 2 protons and 1 neutron.  One of the primary uses of He-3 is in the study of the internal structure of neutrons.  Free neutron targets are not possible so composite nuclear systems such as the deuteron (H-2) and Helium-3 (He-3) are used instead.

However, to extract the desired information from the scattering data it is necessary to have a highly precision model of this nuclear system. 


Dr. Tireman and Collaborators Publish Results of Nucleon-Nucleon Experiment
Dr. Tireman in collaboration with the E07-006 collaboration at Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory (JLab) in Newport News, VA has completed an experiment designed to study the nucleon-nucleon short range repulsive core.  The collaboration, which includes 118 scientists from 49 instructions, measured the nucleon-nucleon short-range colleration to deduce the isospin structure in the region in which the nuclear force is expected to change from a tensor force to a repulsive force.  Some of the neutron detectors used in the experiment were assembled by former NMU student Brad Schoenrock.  Data for this experiment was collected in 2011 and analysis was completed recently.  The paper has been submitted to PRL for publication. Link to abstract.


Neutron Detector Polishing and Assembly
Dr. Will Tireman has several students working on the polishing and assembly of large volume plastic scintillation detectors which will be used as neutron detectors for an experiment to be ran at Jefferson National Laboratory (JLab) in Newport News, Virginia. The experiment is led by a group from Kent State University (Dr. Tireman’s alma mater) and will be investigating the internal charge distribution of the neutron at low energy transfers via a polarized electron-neutron collision.

In this experiment the electron is the projectile and the neutron is the fixed target. The goal of the experiment is to decrease the experimental uncertainties at this energy by more than one-half and thereby result in a stronger test for theoretical nuclear models.

Once the students have finished the polishing of the 18 rectangular parallelepipeds (volume of 100 cm by 25 cm by 10 cm and weighing approximately 65 pounds) they will attach an acrylic light guide to each end of the scintillator. Each light guide requires polishing as well. The entire detector will then be wrapped with a layer of white paper and then black electrical tape to seal the detector from external light. Photomultiplier tubes will be mounted to the ends of the light guides and wrapped for light tightness as well.

Once that is completed, each detector will be tested for light leaks, carefully crated, and then sent to JLab where they will be part of a larger neutron detector package consisting of more than 200 neutron detectors of various sizes.

It is hoped that the NMU contribution will be completed by August and the experiment will run as scheduled in early 2009.


CPT and Lorentz Symmetry; The Standard-Model Extension
Dr Neil Russell does theoretical research focusing on testing the theory of relativity. The tool for this is the Standard-Model Extension, or SME, a framework that incorporates a variety of minuscule relativity 'violations.' The effects of these violations, if they exist, are measurable in sufficiently sensitive experiments. His recent research involves using the SME to figure out the signals that arise in various experimental systems. He has also worked on other theoretical topics, including quantum-mechanical supersymmetry and superalgebras.

View Dr. Russell's research page here.

Student Research

Elena Alaix Manas Interns with Dr. William Tireman

Elena's Research Statement: 

During this internship we worked on the development of C++ classes necessary for extracting experimental data for the upcoming neutron electric form factor experiment using the recoil polarimetry method. The analysis framework that we used is called “Analyzer” which is a special use of the CERN analysis program called ROOT (open source analysis framework of libraries) in Hall A at Jefferson Lab. These C++ classes are derived from the SBS Generic Detector class inside the SBS offline analysis libraries built for Analyzer. The focus of this internship was the structure of the classes, the detector definition file for each detector class, and the hierarchical relationship of the detector classes with the Generic Detector class. This inheritance method makes all functions, variables and methods in the Generic Detector class available and open to be overwritten by the detector classes we created, allowing the creation of detector classes to be easier. During this internship, we also created a file executed by Analyzer that contains the three detector classes that we wanted to compare and a file that contains a map to locate the physical detectors for each detector class.

Josh McMullen Researches at Jefferson Lab

Josh's Research Statement: 

I participated in the Department of Energy's SULI program at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia. Jefferson Lab is home to CEBAF, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility which is used to explore fundamental characteristics of hadrons, elementary particles, and the mechanisms that bind them together. The accelerator recently received an upgrade which doubled the energy of the produced electron beam to 12 billion electron volts (GeV). Physicists in Jefferson Lab's Hall A, including my mentor Dr. Douglas Higinbotham, focus their efforts on measuring the distribution of charge and magnetism within the proton and neutron, a value known as the "form factor".

This increased beam energy allows for higher-precision measurements but requires more sensitive and advanced particle detectors to efficiently track particles following a collision between the beam and the target substance. My work this summer was concerned with the technical upgrades that have been made to Hall A's "BigBite" spectrometer in preparation for the upcoming 12 GeV runs. BigBite's detector package is responsible for identifying the scattered electrons while also providing precise timing and trajectory information. My project included collecting technical specifications on each detector and organizing the information into a journal article to be submitted to Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research. Significant upgrades that required special attention included the addition of gas electron multiplier (GEM) detectors and modifications made to the gas ring imaging (GRINCH) Cherenkov chamber. I also spent a portion of my time doing hands-on work with the spectrometer. My duties included the implementation of high voltage and data acquisition cables and conducting cosmic ray tests on various detectors.

Jarryd Horn Researches at Ohio State University

Jarryd's Research Statement:

I spent 10 weeks with the Ohio State University Center for Emergent Materials, working with experimental condensed matter physicist Dr. Fengyan Yang and a few of his graduate students. The project to which I primarily contributed was with graduate student Mark Meng, primarily growing thin films with the goal of discovering highly desirable magnetic properties for possible spintronic application.

I worked primarily to optimize the crystallinity and epitaxial quality to obtain the desired electronic and magnetic properties. I used magnetron sputtering to deposit thin films and helped synthesize high-quality powder targets for the sputtering process. In characterizing the resulting thin films, I used X-Ray diffraction and used magnetometry techniques to verify crystallinity, growth quality and magnetic activity.

The experience gave me insight into a fast-paced experimental environment in which I was able to observe several projects in varying stages working in parallel in the same lab. As a result, I exposed to a lot of new concepts and experimental techniques between working with Mark and bugging some of his colleagues to ask a lot of questions and offer my own insights.

Barlow Researches at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia

Recent NMU physics graduate, Jonathan Barlow, completed a summer internship at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia. As an intern, Jonathan learned about essential nuclear physics hardware, software, and data analysis techniques. With this information, he studied the ability of a new piece of hardware within a Data Aquisition system and compared it to the behaviors of legacy modules


Hagen Works as Astrophysics Intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory

Physics major, Thomas Hagen, spent most of the summer working as an astrophysics intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Brookhaven is a multipurpose research institution funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Thomas’s learning objective was to acquire data analysis techniques for astrophysics research instruments.  He analyzed sensor data from LSST sensors which failed an implementation test to figure out why they were failing.

At the end of the summer, Thomas wrote a formal research paper, took part in a poster presentation, and provided two PowerPoint presentations for the members of the research team


Jarryd Horn Researches at National Laboratories in England and Canada

Jarryd Horn, physics major and McNair Scholar, has been participating in physics research with his faculty mentor, Dr. P.W. Mengyan. In addition to work at NMU, the research involves conducting experiments with their small collaboration at two national laboratories: the Neutron and Muon source at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England and TRIUMF (actual name) which is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science located in Vancouver, BC.

Jarryd’s work has been focused on addressing some open questions relating to properties of semiconductors (Solid State Physics) by using the Muon Spin Research technique. He has been active in helping run experiments (planning, operating the instruments and data collection at the international facilities), data analysis and interpretation. This summer, he completed a research paper and presented some of his work at the National McNair Research Conference. His continual involvement in the collaboration’s work will continue to contribute to international conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications.

Hunter Studies Neutrino Oscillations at Vanderbilt University's Physics and Astronomy REU

Physics major, Rachel Hunter, participated in Vanderbilt University's Physics and Astronomy REU 2016 which was funded by the NSF. She was at Vanderbilt from May 30 through August 6. While there she studied neutrinos and neutrino oscillations by working with the neutrino oscillation experiments conducted at the Rovno Nuclear Power Station. The learning objective was to find evidence for/against a fourth neutrino through computer modeling of old and new neutrino oscillation experiments.


Reinhardt Participates in REU at University of Massachusetts Amherst

Biidaaban worked on a collaborative project with another REU student with each student working on a different part of the same general project. Reinhardt's portion of this collaboration was titles "Improving Sensing of Gold Nanoparticles in Biological Samples using MALDI Mass Spectrometry" which essentially was using Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-MS) to evaluate if the presence of Gold Nanoparticles changes the biological composition of tissues.

Egan Presents Poster at American Astronomical Society's Annual Conference

Arika Egan, senior physics and philosophy major, recently attended the 225th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Seattle, Washington where she presented a poster about new data on galaxies NGC4242 and UGC07301, analyzing the light intensity as a function of radius, and creating stellar energy distribution graphs, color graphs, and surface brightness profiles for each galaxy. Arika did this research as part of her summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) at the University of Wyoming.


Kyle Branning's Columbia REU in CERN, Switzerland

Over this summer, Kylee Branning's part in the Columbia REU program was focused on the development of data driven background estimation techniques to discriminate the backgrounds for VV resonance searches in the final state of lepton, neutrino, and two quarks. The background she worked with was composed of W+Jets, Z+Jets, ttbar, multijets, and standard model dibosons. Specifically the W/Z+Jets and ttbar backgrounds were measured in control regions formed by reverting the signal region cuts.

Additionally b-tagging was used to discriminate between those two different background types. For the standard model dibosons, the estimation was based on the Monte Carlo. The multijets Run I extrapolation showed marginal quantum chromodynamics (QCD) contamination. Comparisons were made between data and Monte Carlo for an integrated luminosity of 6 pb-1 collected at 13 TeV center of mass energy. In the end, no discrepancy between data and Monte Carlo was found in this study.

Argonne Student Research Presentation

At the annual Argonne Undergraduate Research Symposium at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, several NMU students gave presentations.  Physics major, Daniel Wilbern's presentation was on Measurement of the Mean Lifetime of Muon Particles. His talk was based on research that he did while working with Dr. William Tireman (Physics).

Argonne Student Research Presentation

Three physics students presented at the 2013 Argonne Conference. Daniel Wilbern's presentation was about time-of-flight and position dispersion in plastic scintillator detectors. Cassy Hasting's presentation was about experimental identification of transmission band shifts for liquid-filled, hollow core for photonic crystal fibers due to refractive index scaling. Elizabeth Butler spoke about analyzing time data for the EBEX experiment.


Elizabeth Butler Completes Summer REU in Minnesota

NMU Physics major, Elizabeth Butler, worked this summer on the EBEX experiment for the University of Minnesota, creating software to analysis time data. EBEX is a polarimeter designed to look at the cosmic microwave background radiation in hopes of finding traces of gravitional waves in the modes of polarization. Through her research, she found that the time data was not consistent, and that a section of the data was actually incomprehensible, and thus the detector data associated with that time data is essentially lost data. All this was done using Python.


Hastings Travels to France to Participate in Optics REU

NMU physics major, Cassy Hastings, traveled to Paris, France this summer to study optics and research at The Institut d’Optique Graduate School. This REU program is a collaboration between the University of Michigan and several Paris universities.

This past summer I had the unique opportunity to travel to Paris, France to do research at The Institut d’Optique Graduate School. I was swept off my feet the moment I stepped off of the plane and onto the streets of Paris. Right away I was introduced to my lab supervisor, Dr. Philippe Delaye, and for 10 weeks studied the optical transmission of liquid filled, hollow core photonic crystal fibers as a function of the refractive index of the liquid.

Having never done research before, I found the lab environment to be very stimulating, and the people I worked with very engaging. Much of my time was spent optimizing mirrors and lenses to effectively focus laser light through small optical fibers filled with liquid in order to record the transmission band gap emitted by the fibers. I also had the pleasure of having a lab partner during my time in Paris, with each of us bringing our own unique skills to the lab environment. Lunchtime was spent eating with the whole lab, which proved to be a very comical experience as I got to share some of my adventures in Paris, while listening to lab members talk about their experiences traveling in the US. Overall, I learned that San Francisco was a bit hit with those who had made it to the States.

Working in the lab also gave me the opportunity to make connections with many physicists that will hopefully be colleagues of mine in the future. Not only did I get the chance to learn about the research that each person was doing, but I also got to learn some of their hobbies, and even had “band jam” sessions with one of the grad students in an effort to learn how to play the drums.

Paris of course, was amazing as well. It’s very hard to sum up my experiences exploring Paris in just a few sentences, but these are definitely some memorable things that stand out. For one, the food was fantastic! I’ve discovered that bakeries truly are miracles and that there is nothing better than waking up and eating a fresh-baked croissant. Of course, there were other dishes that were just as wonderful and the overall French cuisine was exceptional.

Museums were also a big highlight of my trip. I was able to learn so much about French history and culture. I saw renowned paintings such as the Mona Lisa, famous sculptures such as The Thinker, and even got to see the tomb of Ramses III, a great Pharaoh of Egypt. In addition to my museum trips, I walked the floors of Notre Dame Cathedral, tunneled through the catacombs that ran underneath the city, climbed the hill at Sacre Coeur, and even made my way up into the Eiffel Tower. Of course, there was also nothing better than sitting in one of Paris’ beautiful parks having a picnic under the sun. 

While I didn’t do much traveling outside of Paris during my time in France, there were a couple of weekends that I traveled to nearby cities to learn more about the country. I traveled to Bordeaux, France, and even made my way to the beaches of Normandy, where I stood in old Nazi-Germany bunkers, trying to imagine D-Day and reflecting on those who gave their lives in an effort to free Europe during World War II.

Overall, I had a tremendous experience in both the lab and on the streets of Paris. I can’t thank the National Science Foundation enough for providing me with the financial support for doing research in Paris as well as the University of Michigan for setting up the various lab experiences for the 13 students that took part in this opportunity. I am also extremely grateful for all of the professors in the NMU physics department who have helped me thus far in my physics career. I look forward to the many opportunities that I will now have in the future to share my research with others at student undergraduate conferences.


Erik Wisuri Interns at NASA

NMU Physics major, Erik Wisuri, interned this summer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility.  At NASA, he worked with a scientist to develop software that can create new mathematical models for ocean microbial ecosystems using genetic algorithms.

Erik Wisuri describes his internship experience:

I was an intern for 10 weeks at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility. One other intern, Dave Coulter from Portland Community College, and I were working with Dr. John Moisan, who is a scientist at the Wallops Field Support Office. Dr. Moisan's research goal is to develop software that can create new mathematical models for ocean microbial ecosystems using genetic algorithms. Our task was to take existing mathematical models and convert them to the structure Dr. Moisan would be using in his program, and verify that the conversion was successful. To support this process, Dave and I developed a program that can take any converted model, simulate it over time using Runge-Kutta numerical analysis, and generate several different data files and graphs. At the end of my internship we had successfully converted three models and were in the process of debugging a fourth, which was the last (and most complex) model remaining. I also managed to come up with a different data structure for the converted models that allowed model simulation to run 60 times faster.

Kitt Peak National Observatory Internship

Senior physics major, Amelia Shirtz, was selected to work as an undergraduate research assistant this summer at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Shirtz's research assistant position was offered through the NSF-Funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program.

Amelia Shirtz, (Amelia is pictured sixth from the left) was selected to work as an undergraduate research assistant at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  The objective of this research experience for undergraduates was to work closely with a National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) scientist on a research project at the forefront of contemporary astrophysics and to gain experience in astronomical data reduction and analysis.  Shirtz's research assistant position was offered through the NSF-Funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. 

When asked about her experience, Shirtz said, "I worked with LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) scientists on learning how to process and analyze optical data for the whole sky.  This meant learning how to use a Mac computer and a variety of different computer languages and programs that had either astronomical uses or that were for astronomical data analysis." 


Argonne Student Research Presentation

Three physics students presented at the 2012 Argonne Conference. Elizabeth Butler and Arika Egan presented on techniques used in astronomical photography. Amelia Shirtz presented on creating an infrastructure for LSST all-sky camera site data.

Student Research Paper Published

A 2012 NMU graduate and physics major, Alexandra Fittante, has published a research paper in an international Nuclear and Particle Physics journal with Dr. Neil Russell of the Physics Department. Ms. Fittante worked on this project, which involved a variety of calculations to find limits on coefficients relevant for space-time symmetries, during her senior year.

More information.