The document below was prepared in December 1999 at the request of KSU's College of Arts & Sciences. It includes a recent overview of what our faculty considers to be the current niche and future direction of our research and graduate program.

Physics Disciplinary Directions and Departmental Niches At KSU

1. Current Disciplinary Structure

One way to summarize the broad areas of the physics discipline is in terms of the separately published sections of the Physical Review which is the primary research journal of the American Physical Society. These are:

A. Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics;
B. Condensed Matter Physics;
C. Nuclear Physics;
D. Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology;
E. Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids and Related Interdisciplinary Topics.

An estimate of activity in these areas is given by the number of pages published in each section during the first six months of 1996: A - 4,500 pp; B - 14,700 pp; C - 3,500 pp; D - 7,000 pp; E- 6,600 pp. Each of these broad areas is quite stable, although the emphasis among sub-areas does evolve. There are relations among these areas. For example, Areas E and B deal with physical phenomena characterized by length scales ranging from a typical atomic size up to visible sizes; they share many physical systems and techniques in common and the term Condensed Matter Physics often is used broadly to cover also a substantial part of area E. One of the topics in area E is Liquid Crystals. Nuclear Physics (C) and the Particle Physics and Fields part of area D are concerned with the structure of matter and deal with physical phenomena on a sub-atomic length scale. These areas also share many physical systems and techniques in common. The Gravitation and Cosmology parts of area D are concerned with the structure of the universe on the largest possible scales of length and time; they are positioned in this area because the structure of the early universe relates to physics on the sub-atomic length scale.

Changes in the discipline over the past two decades include the following increases in emphasis within the broad areas:
Area A--- Bose-Einstein condensation of atoms, atomic trapping, optical phenomena, especially nonlinear optics, atom lasers;
Area B--- novel superconductivity, quantum magnetism, defects and disorder, metal-insulator transition in lower dimensions, quantum Hall phenomena, nanoscale quantum phenomena, ultrafast dynamics, ultra low-temperature physics;
Area C--- the quark-gluon structure of baryons and mesons and their strong interactions, the behavior of bulk nuclear matter at high temperature and density, tests of fundamental symmetries, nuclear astrophysics;
Area D--- classical and quantum gravitation, cosmology and particle astrophysics, search for a unified theory of all forces, physics and particles beyond the standard model;
Area E--- nonlinear dynamics, nonequilibrium phenomena, biophysics, computational physics, heterogeneous systems.

2. Future Changes in the Discipline

Predictions for the future of physics have regularly been made by various national professional panels and, as might be anticipated, they have not have been very accurate. The national demands for graduates, availability of jobs, and the number of students in degree programs tend to fluctuate. In 1998, the unemployment rate for PhD physicists was 0.7%, the lowest in a decade (Physics Today, August 1999). Although academic and basic research jobs are in short supply, there is an increasing appreciation within the Physics discipline of the need to direct educational programs more towards industrial employment. Graduates at all levels from our programs at KSU have been successful in finding the employment they seek.

The following are possible future disciplinary trends over the next 10 years within the previously listed broad areas of the discipline:

A. Atomic and Molecular Physics should see greater emphasis on the atom trapping technique. Optics should grow.

B. Condensed Matter Physics will contain growth opportunities as sub-areas closely connected with high technology industries respond to research and development needs. Growth will also be driven by major new experimental facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne, the Neutron Spallation Source at Oak Ridge, and the National High Magnetic Field Facility in Tallahassee. There is also a great deal of cross-fertilization with many of the developments in A and E.

C. Nuclear Physics should continue to direct increasing efforts to explore the quark-gluon basis of strongly interacting matter via the two new major experimental facilities at JLab and RHIC. These subareas are receiving increased Federal funding and also National Lab support for new faculty positions. The subareas of nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics and fundamental symmetries are expected to be boosted by the Rare Isotope Accelerator which is recommended for construction.

D. Particle Physics and Fields should see expanded efforts to study the origins of mass and the unification of forces beyond the standard model, especially via the violation of the CP symmetry. This is driven by new upcoming experimental facilities including the LHC at CERN and the B-factories at Stanford, Cornell and FermiLab. Gravitation and Cosmology should continue its present growth driven partly by planetary missions and numerous new facilities including the NASA Space Station and the Chandra x-ray observatory.

E. Statistical Physics, Fluids and Interdisciplinary Physics should continue the present healthy growth that has been evident in recent years. Studies of non-linear and non-equilibrium dynamics should remain a focus area, computational physics should continue to see many new advances and biophysics should continue to grow at a fast pace and open new frontiers.

3. Current Departmental Structure

The Physics Department has consistently followed a faculty hiring strategy designed to produce a strong impact by concentrating significant strength in a small number of areas. At present, the various research programs can be grouped under two of the broad areas of the discipline:

a) Liquid Crystals and Complex Fluids
b) Correlated Electron Physics

a) Hadronic Physics and QCD
b) Heavy-ion Collisions and Quark-Gluon Matter

The Condensed Matter Physics Program focusing around Liquid Crystals has been a historical strength of the department since the late 1960's. With the partnership of the Liquid Crystal Institute, KSU now has an international reputation in Liquid Crystal science. There are roughly 10 faculty and research fellows in the Liquid Crystal Institute and the Chemical Physics Interdisciplinary Program pursuing related work. The present Condensed Matter effort in the Physics Department is broader and also includes studies of Complex Fluids and Correlated Electron Systems. A variety of techniques are used including those of computational physics. Research in this general area is presently conducted by 10 Physics faculty: Professors Allender, Almasan, Ellman, Finotello, Gleeson, Kumar, Lee, Mann, Quader, and Sprunt. Theoretical work is conducted by 3 faculty, experimental work by 7. Grant funding for the liquid crystal research programs of 4 of the faculty in this area comes from the NSF ALCOM grant; 4 faculty also have other liquid crystal/complex fluid grant funding from NSF and ONR. Grant funding for the computational physics research of 1 faculty comes from the NSF. Grant funding is in place for 2 of the faculty in Correlated Electron Physics from NSF.

The Nuclear Physics Program was established in 1975 and presently consists of 7 faculty: Professors Anderson, Fai, Keane, Manley, Margetis, Petratos, and Tandy. Associate Dean Watson also maintains research in this area. Emeritus Professor Madey presently conducts an off-site research program via an NSF grant to KSU. In conjunction with the Department's Center for Nuclear Research, the Nuclear Physics program now enjoys an established international reputation. Of the 7 faculty, 2 are theorists and 5 are experimentalists. Grant funding for the research programs of the 4 faculty in hadronic physics and QCD comes from the NSF; and grant funding for 2 of the faculty in the heavy-ion program comes from the DOE.

4. Departmental Niche

Within Physics Departments in Ohio, there is no other program in Condensed Matter Physics focussed around liquid crystals. In fact, in the nation there are very few. The present NSF ALCOM grant, which funds most of such work, is winding down to reach the end of its funding period within the next few years. It is quite possible that comparable funding will continue in a new form. To prepare for this, the Department is participating in special efforts to broaden KSU's liquid crystal funding base to maintain its present reputation in the area. In addition, faculty are increasingly conducting research in the broader areas of complex fluid and biological physics. Research opportunities in liquid crystal/complex fluid physics are expected to continue to be driven by the growth and directions of the photonics/optoelectronics and emerging biotechnology industries. Our unique effort in the basic physics of this area is expected to continue to be strong over the next 10 years and our collaborative partnership with the LCI will continue.

The KSU Nuclear Physics program is without a peer in Northeast Ohio; within Ohio, only Ohio State University and Ohio University have significant programs in this field. The program is actively involved in the 2 main thrusts of the national effort: electromagnetic and hadronic probes of the quark-gluon basis of hadron physics at JLab, and probes of hadronic and quark-gluon matter at high temperature and density at RHIC. In both subareas KSU faculty have a leadership role and a long term commitment to key approved experiments as well as funded research programs in associated theoretical investigations. Working collaborative arrangements with groups in many other universities (e.g., MIT and Penn State U) and national laboratories (e.g., Argonne, Brookhaven and JLab) are in place both in theoretical work and in experimental work where this mode is crucial. Our Nuclear Physics effort is expected to continue to be strong over the next 10 years as the JLab and RHIC accelerator facilities continue at the forefront.

Over the next 10 years, the relatively new Correlated Electron Physics program is expected to play an increasing role within the very competitive national effort to understand and exploit superconductivity, quantum magnetism, disorder and defects in condensed materials, transport characteristics, superfluidity and related phenomena. The faculty in this program have already been successful in establishing research programs at the national and international levels.

Many aspects of the above areas possess common threads in technique and concepts that make them good partners within a physics department and allow cross-fertilization. The techniques of many-body quantum mechanics, field theory, and statistical mechanics are common; so are the phenomena of phase transitions, pairing, condensation and other cooperative phenomena of bulk matter.