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Physics Department

Condensed Matter, Solid State, and Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Condensed Matter and Solid State Physics is the study of matter at various scales. In our department, various professors focus on the study of magnetism in matter, liquid crystals, and nanoscale materials. 


  • Magnetic resonance laboratory with NMR, EPR
  • Dielectric properties of materials laboratory
  • Dilution refrigerator
  • Laser and nonlinear optics laboratory
  • X-ray diffractometer
  • Arc Melter
  • Various Furnaces
  • Molecular Beam Epitaxy
  • Machine and electronics shops

Condensed Matter and Solid State Research

Here are the professors that are currently working on research concerning Condensed Matter, Solid State, Materials Science and AMO. Midshipmen are encouraged to reach out to professors to conduct research.

Raj Basu

Liquid crystals (LCs) are substances that exhibit a phase of matter that has properties between those of a conventional liquid, and those of a solid crystal.   Their unique combination of liquid and solid-like properties allows liquid crystals to be used pervasively in the electro-optical display technology – known as Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD).   Even though LCDs come with many advantages, there are many areas where the performance of the LCD screens can be improved significantly by understanding the fundamental physical properties of the LC.   My long-term goal is to study and understand the fundamental interactions between LCs and nanostructured materials (e.g., graphene, carbon nanotubes, 2D materials), and design novel nanostructure-based LC devices with superior electro-optic performances. 

Daniel Bulmash



Elena Cimpoiasu

Brian Donovan

Brian Donovan is a materials scientist that specializes in measuring heat flow in novel materials. We can gain insight into the nanoscale thermal dynamics of materials and structures by utilizing ultrafast lasers as heaters and thermometers. Understanding thermal transport on this fundamental level allows us to innovate in application spaces that include microelectronics, alternative energy, and directed energy weapons. The goal of Prof Donovan's lab is to design new characterization and thermal processing systems that allow for the next generation of physical understanding and control of thermal transport in Navy relevant applications. Student's in the lab start with developing a basic understanding of materials science, phonon thermal transport, lasers, and optics. By their final year, they go on to specialize on a specific project application and drive their own findings in independent research projects, often resulting in publishable work.
Jeff Larsen

Matthew Knight

Joel Helton

Joel Helton is a materials physicist, primarily interested in using neutron spectroscopy to study collective excitations in quantum magnets. Many crystalline solids feature localized or itinerant magnetic moments due to the intrinsic spin angular momentum of the electron. In frustrated spin systems the crystal geometry, disorder, or competing interactions prevent a simple magnetic order from satisfying all magnetic interactions. In such systems thermal and quantum fluctuation can lead to unique collective states of matter such as quantum spin liquids. I grow and characterize new materials at USNA and perform neutron scattering experiments at the NIST Center for Neutron Research.

Michelle E. Jamer


Jeff Larsen

Matthew Knight

Michael Manicchia

Seth Rittenhouse


Seth Rittenhouse


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