Intermediate and Advanced Laboratory (undergraduate) / Graduate Classical Mechanics / Graduate Particle Physics / Senior-level undergraduate Electricity and Magnetism (4-hour) / Undergraduate Classical Mechanics (4-hour) / Introductory Physics Seminar.
My research involves the experimental study of high-energy nuclear collisions using accelerators. For a very brief time, we produce conditions resembling the first microseconds of the Big Bang. Since about 2000, my focus has been the STAR experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island, New York. I have also served as spokesperson for experiment E895, also at Brookhaven. Work on this project wound down around 2004.
Large collaborations involving several tens of institutions from around the world are needed to carry out these experiments. Each institution has its own distinct physics priorities. My group at Kent State searches for new antimatter nuclei, and we use measurements of anisotropy (the extent to which the created matter does not emerge symmetrically in all directions) to learn about fluid-like behavior and phase transitions in the dense and highly excited matter created. Additional topics are studied by my close collaborator, Spiros Margetis, Ph.D.
My special powers have been officially recognized by Kent State Faculty Senate.
Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities
Thanks to the outstanding postdocs and students in my group, I can point to these research highlights from the past few years:
- March 2020: In collaboration with our former postdoc, now Prof. Jinhui Chen, and his PhD student Peng Liu, we published a new finding related to matter-antimatter symmetry in the journal Nature Physics; this article in Science News highlights Kent State's role in the research.
- August 2017: Ph.D. advisee Prashanth Shanmuganathan, who graduated in August 2016, was chosen by the accelerator users' organization at Brookhaven National Laboratory to receive their annual award for "Outstanding Thesis." More details and a photo from the award ceremony can be found in a KSU news story.
- April 2014: Results from the dissertation of my recently-graduated Ph.D. advisee Yadav Pandit, published this month in Physical Review Letters, are considered possible indications of a phase transition never previously observed in this branch of physics, in the same mathematical category as the familiar phase changes between ice, liquid water and water vapor. The Media Office at Brookhaven National Lab has issued a press release to coincide with this publication, and the story has been picked up by other news outlets (details at the link above).
- November 2013: Former postdoc Dr. Lokesh Kumar, a member of my group from early 2010 through mid-2013, is the subject of this Feature Article published this month by Brookhaven National Lab. As a result in part of his postdoctoral work for Kent State while stationed at Brookhaven, he secured a permanent research position in India, closely followed by an Asst. Prof. appointment at Panjab University in India.
- August 2013: Named among Top 25 STEM Professors in Ohio (courtesy of the Online Schools organization).
- April 2013: former KSU postdoc Dr. Jinhui Chen has received his prestigious George Valley Prize from the American Physical Society at a ceremony this month in Denver. This prize primarily recognizes his work on the discovery of the first antimatter nucleus containing a quark with the strangeness quantum number. The research was carried out during 2009 while he was a member of my group. Additional details are below under the item for Spring 2010. It was an impressive ceremony, and even included his award citation appearing on the Jumbotron screen at the baseball stadium (Coors Field) in Denver.
- Early-2012: Discover magazine (affiliated with the Discovery Channel) ranked our anti-alpha work (see next bullet below) their #3 story for the year 2011 under physics and math, and their #20 story under all areas of science.
- April 2011: I gave the first conference talk on the discovery of the anti-alpha on behalf of the STAR collaboration. This antimatter nucleus (also called anti-helium-4) is likely to remain the heaviest known stable antinucleus for decades to come (the next stable one would be about 3 million times rarer unless produced by a new and unknown mechanism). My former PhD student Aihong Tang, now a staff scientist at Brookhaven, was the main person coordinating the analysis details. Our measurements prove that if the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (a $2 billion experiment on the International Space Station) finds any anti-alpha particles in cosmic radiation, they cannot be understood as having been produced in cosmic nuclear collisions and would point to the presence of bulk antimatter in a remote region of the cosmos. Our anti-alpha discovery is published in the prestigious journal Nature.
- Mid-2011: PhD student Yadav Pandit won the award for "best poster" at the 2011 RHIC Users Meeting at Brookhaven National Lab. The poster dealt with azimuthal anisotropy in nuclear collisions.
- Spring 2010: My group spearheaded the discovery by STAR of the first antimatter nucleus containing a strange quark; this antinucleus consists of an antiproton, an antineutron and an anti-Lambda. KSU postdoc Jinhui Chen was the main person implementing the analysis, and the discovery was published in the journal Science in March 2010. I was the contact person quoted in a news story in Nature, in Scientific American, and in the news organ of the Institute of Physics (UK). My favorite news item is the one which referred to us as “Topflight international reverse-alchemy boffins”.
- February 2010: A story in APS News (from the American Physical Society) looks back over the "Top Ten Physics Newsmakers of the Decade", and names the discovery of Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) as one of these top ten. Results on hydrodynamic behavior that first appeared in the dissertation of my PhD advisee Aihong Tang are considered among the more compelling pieces of evidence that support the QGP picture, and have been prominently featured in summaries of the discovery, e.g., in a paper which has been cited over two thousand times as of late 2013.
- Spring 2008: My group's postdoc Mikhail Kopytine was recognized by the periodical Science Watch, in their March/April 2008 issue, as sharing first place in their world-wide ranking of researchers (covering every area of science) with the greatest number of "hot papers" in 2006-07. The previous year, Dr. Kopytine was jointly #2 in this ranking, but he since pulled ahead of the long-standing leader, Japanese Immunologist Shizuo Akira. It should be noted that the ranking used by Science Watch has no subjective input, and is based solely on the number of citations received by papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
Fellow of American Physical Society
Named one of top 25 STEM professors in Ohio
KSU President's Faculty Excellence Award
Distinguished Scholar Award, KSU