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    Florida Tech
  Oct 19, 2017
2017-2018 Catalog

Department of Physics and Space Sciences

Daniel Batcheldor, Ph.D., Head

Degree Programs

Astrobiology, B.S.  
Astronomy and Astrophysics, B.S.  
Meteorology, B.S.  
Meteorology, M.S.  
Physics - Premedical Physics, B.S.  
Physics, B.S.  
Physics, M.S.  
Physics, Ph.D.  
Planetary Science, B.S.  
Space Sciences, M.S.  
Space Sciences, Ph.D.  

Undergraduate Minor Program

Meteorology Minor  
Physics Minor  

Marc M. Baarmand, Ph.D., elementary particle physics: experimental high-energy physics at CERN (CMS experiment), hadroproduction of heavy quarks in pQCD, Higgs physics, particle detector technology, grid computing.

Daniel Batcheldor, Ph.D., extragalactic astrophysics: unified model of active galactic nuclei, scaling relations between super-massive black holes and their host galaxies, instrumentation.

Samuel T. Durrance, Ph.D., space exploration research: instrumentation development, UV spectroscopy, atmospheric physics, nuclear physics, space environment and human space exploration, NASA astronaut.

Marcus Hohlmann, Ph.D., elementary particle physics: experimental high-energy physics with CMS experiment at CERN, development of particle detectors, muon tomography, cluster and grid computing.

Steven M. Lazarus, Ph.D., analysis and modeling of wind driven waves, surface roughness, data assimilation, meteorology of transient thunderstorm electrical phenomena.

T. Dwayne McCay, Ph.D., materials science: materials processing in space.

Eric S. Perlman, Ph.D., extragalactic astrophysics: active galactic nuclei, jets, observational cosmology.

Hamid K. Rassoul, Ph.D., space physics and instrumentation: physics of planetary lightning, solar energetic particles and cosmic rays, magnetic storms and substorms, photochemistry of planetary upper atmospheres.

Ming Zhang, Ph.D., space physics: cosmic radiation and interactions with the plasma and magnetic fields in the interstellar medium, the heliosphere and magnetospheres.

Associate Professors
Hakeem M. Oluseyi, Ph.D., observational astronomy and instrumentation: solar/stellar atmospheres, cosmology, history of astronomy; physics education research.

Francisco Yumiceva, Ph.D., elementary particle physics, experimental high-energy physics at CERN with CMS experiment, search for exotic particles, simulation and detector development.

Assistant Professors
Saida Caballero-Nieves, Ph.D., massive stars, massive binaries and multiplicity, adaptive optics, stellar spectroscopy, interferometry, space-based astronomy.

Amitabh Nag, Ph.D., optical lightning data from satellite-based lightning detectors, LF/VLF lightning data from ground-based lightning detectors.

Csaba Palotai, Ph.D., comparative planetology, numerical modeling of airbursts, atmospheric dynamics and physics.

Jean Carlos Perez, Ph.D., nonlinear dynamics and turbulence in space, astrophysical plasma flows.

Pallav Ray, Ph.D., tropical meteorology, Madden-Julian Oscillation, climate dynamics and modeling.

Benjamin M. Sawyer, M.S., physics education.

Research Associate Professors
Konstantin V. Gamayunov, Ph.D., theoretical and computational space plasma physics.

Visiting Research Professors
K.L. Cummins, Ph.D., lightning, high-amplitude EMPs, cloud charge structure, severe weather forecasting models.

George Rybicki, Ph.D., nuclear physics, radiation detection and measurement, nuclear non-proliferation.

Director of Undergraduate Laboratories
James A. Gering, M.S.

Professors Emeriti
Joel H. Blatt, Ph.D.; James D. Patterson, Ph.D.



Meteorology students and faculty are engaged in a diverse range of projects that include work in areas of lightning, data assimilation, mesoscale analysis, wind-driven waves and currents, surface roughness, dynamical and statistical downscaling, tropical climate, reanalysis data, high resolution modeling, climate modeling, and air-sea interaction. There are three principle areas of research within the meteorology program with some overlap.

The wind group includes interdisciplinary faculty who work on coupled atmospheric and hydrodynamic modeling within coastal estuaries, the downscaling of atmospheric winds using large-scale ensemble model output and high resolution local simulations with the Weather Research and Forecast Model (WRF), and the calibration of simple models that predict wind driven waves and water levels within the lagoon system. This work often involves external collaborations with the National Weather Service as well the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The group has a research grade infrared lidar (ZephIR 300) that samples the surface layer wind field (up to 1,000 ft.) and is used for fieldwork.

Lightning research is conducted in tandem with the Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL) and addresses issues related to the meteorology of transient luminous events (TLEs). In particular, the work involves understanding storm morphology and structure associated with gigantic jets, bolts from the blue, sprites and terrestrial gamma ray flashes. Dual-polarization radar, satellite, lightning detection networks and modeling are integrated within the various research projects.

A major focus of the tropical group involves the equatorial Pacific with an emphasis on the Madden-Julian Oscillation and air-sea interaction. The group works on issues related to the tropical moisture budget and its representation in climate models, the impact of land on diurnal precipitation cycle over the Maritime Continent, as well as the influence of mid-latitude weather on tropical circulation. The tropical group has tested and implemented a precipitation lens parameterization within the WRF that accounts for cooling and freshening the ocean surface. Much of this work is computational, involving significant data mining and very large data sets (model output and reanalysis). The group also works with a version of the WRF that is designed specifically for the tropics (a tropical channel model). In addition, the tropical group has tested an improved representation of heat and moisture fluxes within an embedded WRF urban canopy model. Model simulations are performed on a centralized Linux cluster with visualizations and analysis transferred to workstations.


Current research in physics includes experimental high-energy physics, experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics, instrumentation development, theoretical and observational studies of the solar/heliospheric energetic particles and cosmic rays, physics of energetic radiations from thunderstorms and lightning, auroral and magnetospheric physics, astrophysics, engineering physics, and physics education.

Experimental research in physics is carried out in a variety of laboratories operated by the department, as well as at national and international research facilities. Facilities that are currently available to students include the following laboratories.

High-Energy Physics Laboratory (HEP): The HEP experimental efforts are centered on studying high energy hadron collisions using large particle physics experiments at major national (BNL) and international (CERN, Switzerland) accelerator facilities, as well as conducting basic detector technology research and development, and high-performance grid computing in laboratories on the Florida Tech campus. Presently, the group is involved in data-taking efforts with the CMS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider and is performing physics analyses on these data. The Florida Tech group has responsibilities for calibration of the hadron calorimeters, Tier0-Tier2 data flow and validation for the B physics analysis group, operation of a Tier3 site on the Open Science Grid and a study of an upgrade of the forward muon detector with micro-pattern gas detectors. The physics analyses are initially focused on measurements of the properties of the top and bottom quarks and search for new gauge bosons. With new higher luminosities, the physics program helped the successful searches for the Higgs boson and is now focussing on more exotic phenomena at multi-TeV energy scale. Another main research area is the development and construction of a muon tomography system for detecting high-Z materials hidden in cargo, based on advanced micro-pattern gas detectors such as Gas Electron Multipliers. The HEP laboratory houses a Linux-based computing cluster with 180 CPU cores and 100TB of mass storage that is used for muon tomography detector simulation and data analysis and serves as a Tier3 site on the Open Science Grid for CMS data analysis. The group conducts research and development on advanced particle detector technology for the Super-LHC upgrade programs and participates in the RD51 detector development collaboration at CERN. In addition, Florida Tech is a member of the PHENIX experiment at BNL’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which is investigating a new state of matter dubbed the quark-gluon plasma.

Space Sciences

Current research activity in space sciences includes the physics of supermassive black holes and galaxy evolution, massive stars, astrophysical jets and accretion phenomena, exoplanets, planetary science, observational cosmology, cosmic ray modulation/propagation and its interactions with the interstellar medium, energetic radiation from terrestrial and planetary lightning discharges, solar wind-magnetosphere interactions and energetic particle observations and human space exploration research.

Experimental research in space science is carried out in a variety of laboratories operated by the department, as well as at national and international research facilities. Facilities currently available to students include the following laboratories:

Astronomy and Astrophysics Laboratory: Astrophysicists and students work on a wide variety of topics, including exoplanets, astrophysical fluid dynamics, accretion phenomena, the physics and evolution of active galactic nuclei and their jets, cosmology, solar and stellar atmospheres, ultraviolet spectroscopy and astronomical instrumentation. The astrophysics group includes professors working in a variety of different wavebands from the radio to x-rays, including observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer satellite, as well as ground-based optical and radio observatories. Members of the group are involved in the development of instrumentation for the CanariCam Science Team, a guaranteed-time program on the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias, the world’s largest optical telescope. Resources include Linux computers, astronomical data reduction packages including IRAF, AIPS and CIAO. Research within the Astronomy and Astrophysics Laboratory also includes planetary science, with a focus on planetary geology, impact cratering, orbital dynamics, exoplanets and astrobiology. Members of the group are involved in the Kepler exoplanet mission, and the New Horizons mission to study the Kuiper Belt.

Ortega 0.8-m Telescope: This large research telescope forms the heart of the F.W. Olin Observatory. Installed in 2007, it sits on the rooftop of the F. W. Olin Physical Sciences Center. Equipped with a large-format CCD imaging system and spectrograph, it is available for student and faculty astronomy and astrophysics research projects as well as monthly public guest nights.

SARA 0.9-m Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, 0.6-m Telescope at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory and 1.0-m Telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos: Florida Tech is the founding institution for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA). See “Research” in the Institution Overview  section for more information.

Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL): This facility is a collection of three major laboratories that host all of Florida Tech’s space physicists, planetary scientists and their students’ research projects. These labs are outlined below (GPL-A-D). In a joint operation with UCLA of California, Florida Tech is hosting a 10-site meridional array of magnetometers along the east coast of the United States (the MEASURE array) from Florida to southern Canada. The array observations, and particle and field measurements from various satellites are used for studying the geospace environment during magnetic storms and substorms. We also have joint operational custody (with the University of Florida) of the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing (ICLRT) that is located at Camp Blanding Army National Guard Base near Starke, Florida, where airspace can be controlled for rocket-triggering.

Lightning and Instrument Development Laboratory (GPL-A): A series of recent theoretical breakthroughs and experimental detector development by our team working at both this lab and the ICLRT has led to the discovery of x-ray emission from lightning and its possible central role in understanding the lightning plasma processes. Exploring the implications of this discovery is one of the main goals of this research lab. At the ICLRT, lightning is artificially triggered using small rockets trailing wires; in effect telling the lightning when and where to strike. This allows detailed observation and theoretical investigations to help us better understand how terrestrial (and planetary) lightning works and how to better protect lightning-vulnerable assets.

Cosmic Rays and Space Weather Laboratory (GPL-B): This lab uses a network of workstations to study the energetic particle environment in the solar system. Some of the particles are cosmic rays from the galaxy, while some are produced by the sun during solar flares. By studying these particles, we try to understand the energetic phenomena in the galaxy or on the sun that affect the radiation environment at Earth. Gaining such understanding is one of our main goals to protect astronauts working in space and the electronic components on satellites. In addition, analysis of the COSPIN experiment on Ulysses and several other spacecraft datasets (Wind, SOHO, SAMPEX, ACE and RHESSI) in support of investigating the energetic particles environment with the solar system are conducted in this lab.

Space Exploration Research Laboratory (GPL-C): This lab supports a research program focused on enabling sustained human space exploration and on the origin, distribution and future of life in the universe. The lab includes imaging systems, optics, calibration and test equipment, a large clean room, and other hardware used to support the development of space instrumentation. It has a high-performance computing system for modeling and simulation, and a ground control system to receive data and send commands to the International Space Station. Some of the laboratory activities are housed in the new Space Life Sciences Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center, where atomic force and laser confocal fluorescence microscopes optimized for bioimaging, small-animal research hardware, and other equipment supports research into the hazards associated with long-term human exposure to the space environment, such as radiation damage, loss of bone mass, muscle atrophy and cardiovascular de-conditioning.

Teaching and Research Assistantships

The department offers a number of teaching and research assistantships each year. Teaching assistants participate in laboratory instruction and/or assisting faculty in the preparation of teaching materials and grading. Research assistants work on research projects that are often related to their own master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation investigations. Both types of assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis, and provide graduate course fee remission and a stipend for living expenses. To increase the probability of receiving an assistantship, applicants are advised to apply as early as possible in the academic year prior to requested admission.