Research Opportunities for Physics Majors
The physics program seeks to advance the frontiers of physics, and therefore provide faculty-mentored, cutting-edge research opportunities that allow physics majors to acquire and develop scientific and communication skills. This research mission is carried out jointly by physics faculty and students. The research goal is to seek new knowledge that is at the cutting edge of modern science. We aim to provide research opportunities and an avenue for our students that can potentially lead to scientific discoveries. Therefore, as part of the physics curriculum, all physics majors are required to take part in a faculty-mentored research project starting in their sophomore year.
Currently, undergraduate students can pursue research projects in the following areas: Experimental High Energy Physics with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Theoretical Particle Physics, Astrophysics (Exoplanet Studies with the Kepler Data), Beowulf Cluster Computing, Grid Computing, and Robotics. We are also part of the Kentucky Association for Research with LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope). This research consortium consists of eight institutions from Kentucky.
In the past six years, the physics program has received over $1.1 million in highly competitive federal funding- three grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), one grant from KY-NSF-EPSCoR and two grants from the NASA’s KSGC (Kentucky Space Grant Consortium program). The physics program is also part of an institutional grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation, which provides research stipends to undergraduate women majoring in a STEM field. The NSF funding led to the establishment of the Center for Supercomputing, Visualization and Education (CSVE) in 2014. This research center is equipped with two research labs- (i) the Bellarmine Supercomputing Lab that houses a 384-core Supercomputer (with 374 TB of disk space) that is linked to the national Open Science Grid (OSG) cyberinfrastructure and is the only OSG grid site in the state of Kentucky, and (ii) the Advanced Visualization and Computational Lab (AVCL) that houses a 16 megapixel state-of-the-art 16 feet by 4.6 feet Hiperwall visualization system (a next generation video-wall technology) which is connected to nine high-end Tier4 Data Analysis workstations to enable visualization of very large-scale datasets (Big Data). The Hiperwall system has created a dynamic/interactive visualization environment for conducting interactive and exploratory data analyses activities.
In 2015, we established a Robotics Lab that is equipped with several robotic devices (such as rovers, robotics arms, and a remote controlled semiautonomous hexapod), two 3D printers, and a humanoid robot called NAO that can interact with humans.
Over the past few years, physics majors have actively participated in a number of federally funded cutting-edge research projects. In the past seven years, our physics majors have presented over 60 talks and posters at local, state, regional and national meetings and conferences. Physics majors have won ten Kentucky Academy of Science undergraduate research competition awards (seven first-prize awards and three second-prize awards). Additionally, physics majors have received Bellarmine University’s prestigious Sister Mary Casilda Research award for outstanding research work in science four times in the past six years.
Physics majors can also obtain REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) summer research internships at a number of research institutions. Internship opportunities are available for physics majors locally. Physics majors have obtained internships with GE in Louisville.