Minnesota State University Moorhead Physics and Astronomy: Departmental Research
College of Health, Science, & the Environment

Faculty in the Physics and Astronomy department consider research by students to be a key part of their education. As such, every major is required to engage in research before they will be awarded a degree. Here are just some of the possible areas of research you will find our faculty engaged in.

Astrophysics Research

Observing Changes in Astronomical Objects and Astronomy Students
I am an observational astronomer interested in observing the changing sky on human timescales. My recent investigations have focused on obtaining accurate surface photometry of planetary nebula and supernova remnants looking for changes observable over a period of decades. Additionally, over the past several years I have worked with students on variable star observations, observations of changes in sky color during a total solar eclipse, and developing interactive web-based simulations for introductory astronomy students. Contact Dr. Juan Cabanela (477-2453; cabanela@mnstate.edu )

Exoplanet Detection and Astronomical Software Development
I am part of the ground-based follow-up team for the TESS space mission to detect planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. That means I work with students to take data on potential exoplanets identified by the TESS mission to determine whether the object of interest is really an exoplanet or something else, like a binary star system. In addition, I am involved in several large astronomical software projects like Astropy and its affiliated packages and in broader Python software efforts like conda-forge. I also help maintain the VPython package used in intro physics courses. There are opportunities for students to participate in all of these projects. Contact Dr. Matthew Craig (477-2439; mcraig@mnstate.edu)

Stellar Spectroscopy
I am presently building two spectrometers for use out at the Feder Observatory near Buffalo River State Park.  The first spectrometer will take high-resolution spectra of stars in the red region of the spectrum, where our camera is most sensitive.  The second spectrometer is a field spectrometer.  It will be able to produce more color-band information on astronomical objects than our filter set that we currently use. Contact Dr. Linda Winkler (477-2460; winklerl@mnstate.edu)

Physics Research

Ionosphere Studies
In partnership with faculty and students at NDSU, I am using GPS to monitor fluctuations in the Earth's ionosphere.  These disturbances can bother satellite communication, as well as sensitive magnetic detection schemes.  Students can help take and process the large amount of data that comes in daily. Contact Dr. Linda Winkler (477-2460; winklerl@mnstate.edu)

Microscopy
Learn how to image objects using diffractive optical techniques. You can describe what we do as either building a lens free microscope or doing crystallography on non-periodic objects. What you will do is work on developing methods to collect the diffraction pattern from an object.  Once you have a diffraction pattern you will work on developing reconstruction methods to extract information about the object recorded in your image. Contact Dr. Steve Lindaas (477-4268; lindaas@mnstate.edu)

Project: Robotics
Any device you can create that will explore its surroundings is just fascinating.  I am interested in very simple B.E.A.M devices that use basic electronic elements (often in non traditional configurations) to model simple behaviors.  These devices resemble simple neurological "animals" that I liken to different insects.  I also have a few more traditional robots and newly acquired wireless technology interfaces.  I would like to use this equipment to create self organizing systems. Contact Dr. Steve Lindaas (477-4268; lindaas@mnstate.edu)

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Learn how to fllip the nuclei of atoms with radio waves. Help interface a student-built nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer to a computer. Study the nuclear interactions of different materials. Help build a desktop demonstration of nuclear magnetic resonance. Desired skills (but not necessary): soldering, programming, construction skills. Contact Dr. Ananda Shastri (477-2448; shastri@mnstate.edu)

Physics Education Research

Science Simulations Repository
Work on a project to bring together existing science simulations and websites with lesson plans tied to the Minnesota Academic Standards in science. Contact Richard Lahti (477-2149; lahtiri@mnstate.edu)

Physics Education
Share your enthusiasm for physics with others.  We create educational activities that are useful to area educators.  Some of these activities have equipment that needs care and feeding.  We work on materials, demos and explanations.  In particular we are trying to create a suite of on-line videos that can be accessed by anyone to aid in using teaching apparatus - and understanding the physics. Contact Dr. Steve Lindaas (477-4268; lindaas@mnstate.edu)