A visit to Miami University's Physics Department

Posted by David Eicher
on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Members of Miami University’s Physics Department: Mandy Pettit, Jennifer Blue, Judy Eaton, and Herbert Jaeger. David Eicher photo.

Trips, trips, trips. I’ve been running around a bit and desperately trying to catch up with various things. One of those is to share this blog about the delightful visit I had to Miami University’s Physics Department a few weeks ago. 

David Eicher in the famous Upham Hall arch at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Photo by Jennifer Blue.

As I wrote about earlier, I had the good fortune to deliver the annual George C. Benson Memorial Lecture at Miami on April 12, talking about “The New Cosmos.” As a guest of Physics Department chair Herbert Jaeger, my good friend Associate Professor Jennifer Blue, and others, I had a wonderful visit with the department and its staff, prior to the talk. I want to share some highlights of this special day with you here. 

I felt so honored and lucky to be back, having grown up as a professor’s son in Oxford, Ohio, Miami’s locale, and counting Miami — and the Department of Physics! — as my alma mater. 

The department conducts a wide array of research and its faculty and staff have a broad range of expertise in many subfields of physics. Professor and Department Chair Herbert Jaeger is an expert on materials physics, focusing on the physics of ceramic materials. He employs spectroscopy to study structures and defects in materials at microscopic levels, for example. 

Miami University Physics Professor and Department Chair Herbert Jaeger in his office. David Eicher photo.

I spent lovely time catching up with Associate Professor Jennifer Blue, a friend who is also a friend of my sister Nancy’s, and was a friend and colleague of my father John, a chemistry professor at Miami who passed away in 2016. Jennifer’s interesting research and activities focus on physics education research, the study of how physics students learn and develop their ideas and concepts. 

Associate Professor Jennifer Blue in her office at Miami University. David Eicher photo.

I was really pleased to meet Steve Alexander, Associate Professor and Chief Departmental Advisor, who teaches the introductory astronomy courses at Miami. Steve studies computational astrophysics and is very interested in the dark matter problem, having researched MOND as an alternative to explain the nature of dark matter, among many other topics. 

Associate Professor Steve Alexander studies the dark matter problem. David Eicher photo.

I was also delighted and amazed to see the laboratory of Professor Samir Bali, whose research group focuses on the properties of ultracold atoms in a so-called optical lattice. These studies may be very important or quantum computing applications. The optical lattice consists of atoms at temperatures of few microKelvins organized in crystal-like fashion in periodic potential wells induced by the interference of several laser beams. 

Professor Samir Bali explains his research on ultracold atoms and the amazing potential they offer for quantum computing. David Eicher photo.

Professor Samir Bali (right) and graduate student Anthony Rapp pose in front of the lab used for research on ultracold atoms. David Eicher photo.

The lecture went well, as I wrote. I had a wonderful time seeing the campus again, including various icons such as the Physics Department’s great Foucault Pendulum display. 

Miami’s Physics Department features a Foucault Pendulum display with a starmap, historic local map, and other visuals built into the base, and stars and galaxies near the origin point overhead. David Eicher photo.

I look forward to visiting many old and new friends at Miami sometime again soon. 

For more on Miami’s great Physics Department and its activities, see:

http://www.miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/physics/

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