Research Areas in Physics

Atomic, Molecular, & Optical Physics

The Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics team at UNLV consists of five research groups, led by five full-time academic faculty members, three in experiment and two in theory. There are research associates, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students in both M.S. and Ph.D. programs, with undergraduate students directly participating in the cutting-edge research activities of these groups.

The experimental groups have ongoing research projects in nonlinear optics, photon correlation spectroscopy, spectroscopy of molecular ions, studies of laser-produced low energy plasmas and trapped ions, and quantum sensors. All the research laboratories are equipped with the state-of-the-art laser, ultrahigh vacuum, and spectroscopy facilities. A newly established research laboratory is developing new quantum sensors that will allow the researchers to search for fundamental symmetry breaking and dark matter in their laboratory and manipulate quantum information and devices at their fingertips.

The theoretical groups have ongoing research projects in atomic and molecular collisions, cold and ultra-cold atoms and their application to quantum information and computing, geometric phases and forces in atomic processes, modeling of molecular clouds in the interstellar medium, and application of AMO physics to other astrophysical problems, such as supernova, active galactic nuclei, and star formation.

Cold and Ultracode Molecular Ions Laboratory

Zhou's group focuses on applying state-of-the-art technologies in experimental AMO physics to fundamental physics, quantum information processing, and Astro/radio chemistry investigations. The current ongoing projects are (1) exploring new physics beyond the Standard Model by precision measurements using ultracold molecular ions, (2) developing a quantum transducer linking ion trap and superconducting quantum computers, and (3) investigating ion-radical collisions for revealing mechanisms of molecular synthesis in the interstellar medium and catalytic reactivity of molecules containing heavy elements. Furthermore, a major research facility – a dual optical frequency comb (OFC) system is set up, operated, and upgraded in Zhou's group. Several ongoing collaborative projects based on the OFC system span physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, and geoscience.

Condensed Matter Physics

The Condensed Matter (CM) Physics team at UNLV consists of seven research groups, led by seven full-time academic faculty members, four in experiment and three in theory. There are research faculty, research associates, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students in both M.S. and Ph.D. programs, with undergraduate students directly participating in the cutting-edge research activities of these groups.

The experimental condensed matter groups focus on exotic materials, such as the ones with low dimensionality and the ones under extremely high pressure. The ongoing projects include using hard x-ray photochemistry as a means to drive novel decomposition and synthetic chemistry, studying transient and non-equilibrium states in nanomaterials, and probing low-temperature electronic phases in the two-dimensional materials. The newly established Nevada Extreme Conditions Laboratory (NEXCL) has recently discovered the highest superconducting temperature in a superhydride material below 1 Megabar in their quest to realize room-temperature superconductivity at ambient pressures, and they have also identified a new phase of high-pressure water ice which recalibrates our understanding of the composition of exoplanets and the possibility that they could support life.

The theoretical condensed matter physics groups work primarily on the modeling and simulation of new and novel materials systems. Our researchers use state-of-the-art computational and many-body techniques, including exact diagonalization and quantum Monte Carlo simulation, to study the electron correlation effects in new materials systems. Current projects include calculation of the spectroscopy of highly correlated electronic systems, including clusters and thin films, electronic structure modeling of quantum wells, quantum dots, and new semiconductor compounds, and renormalization group studies of lower-dimensional systems. The newest group has been focusing on the development of computational methods/codes to search and design new materials with target functionalities with ab initio calculations and machine learning.

Nevada Extreme Conditions Laboratory

NEXCL is interested in the toughest questions at the extremes of temperature, pressure, field, time and more in materials related sciences.

The aim is to lead the way in the discovery and understanding of materials with these extremes that will have the greatest societal change, addressing energy and climate issues. Our interdisciplinary center combines expertise in high-pressure and high-temperature techniques; optical and X-ray spectroscopy; theoretical and computational methodologies; and large-scale user facility, synchrotron and free electron laser experiments.

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