Department News

Department News

This site will have the latest information on Departmental News and activities from the faculty and staff here in our Physics Department at Lamar University.
Physics Professor awarded a Prestigious Grant

Physics professor awarded a prestigious grant to host a meeting in Venice

Dr. Philip Cole

The American Physical Society recently announced that Dr. Philip Cole, physics chair and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Lamar University, has been awarded one of the Convening Awards ($25,000) funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to support small scientific meetings. As a result, Cole will help organize the international workshop on “Light Dark Matter @ Accelerators” Nov. 20-22, 2019, in Venice, Italy. 

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Convening Award on Opportunities in Fundamental Physics is a prestigious award given to select scientists and educators in the United States. Cole has been named the principal investigator. 

“The focus of this grant is on advancing new ideas in physics on how to detect dark matter,” said Cole. “Given that we know next to nothing on the structure and composition of dark matter and energy, it this was a difficult grant proposal to write so I’m thrilled we were awarded this very prestigious grant.” 

Cole, along with two other investigators - Dr. Elton Smith of Jefferson Lab and Prof. Michael Wood from Canisius College - represent the American side of the ten-member Local Organizing Committee and are all topic conveners for this workshop. Drs. Andrea Celentano and Marco Battaglieri, both from Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Genoa, Italy, are the lead workshop organizers of “Light Dark Matter Accelerators 2019” (LDMA2019).

Moore Foundation
The grant awarded to Lamar University is one of several Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grants designed to stimulate ideas on innovative ways in which emerging technologies can be used to address pressing problems in fundamental physics beyond the standard model by bringing people together to collaborate on ideas and explore new cost-effective approaches.

“This award demonstrates the global impact of Lamar University and its leadership in dark matter and energy, as well as its influence in the dissemination of research knowledge,” said Lynn Maurer, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Lamar University continues to make further inroads into research success.”  

Cole says dark matter is an enigma because mass of visible matter (electrons and nuclei) accounts for less than 5% of the universe but the remaining 95% is called dark matter and dark energy. It cannot be seen in the electromagnetic spectrum nor has dark matter been directly detected in scattering experiments.

APS Logo
“Even though dark matter cannot be seen, there is clear cosmological evidence for this all-pervasive dark matter and dark energy,” said Cole.  “The non-Keplerian rotational curves of clusters of galaxies, the large-scale structure of mega-groupings of galaxies, and the accelerating expansion of the universe are inexplicable if ordinary gravity from visible matter were the only cause of these cosmological phenomena.  Therefore, there must be something extraordinary at work.  And this extraordinary thing is called dark matter and dark energy.”  

The workshop, a third in a series of workshops, will cover a variety of topics including present and future experimental programs and the latest updates on dark matter detection and ultra-light dark matter searches, among others. After each presentation, there will be discussion sessions to review novel ideas, plans and proposals.

“The workshop will afford the opportunity to share expertise spanning from theoretical motivations to experimental techniques for future programs to pursue in mid-energy and high-intensity accelerating facilities,” said Cole. 

Workshop activities will coordinate around:

●      Theoretical grounds and motivations for light dark matter scenarios

●      Present and future experimental programs at accelerators

●      Status of dark forces searches and future perspectives

●      Latest updates on dark matter direct detection and results from experiments at high-energy colliders

●      Constraints and limits from indirect dark matter detection

●      Innovative instrumentation and new experimental techniques

“LDMA2019 will bring together 50 to 60 nuclear and particle physicists – theorists, experimentalists and phenomenologists, who would tend not to coordinate on one scientific enterprise,” said Cole.  

“The diverse background of physicists working on dark matter presents opportunities for collaboration but also challenges us to work together. It is a new community-based in mutual interest in this important scientific question. The aim of this workshop is to provide a venue where all these experiences can be focused on the common goal of understanding dark matter.”

To learn more about the workshop and keep abreast of topics and the agenda, visit “Light Dark Matter 2019.”
LU Physicists professor distinguished for mentoring

Dr. Cristian Bahrim of Lamar University has been awarded the Council of Undergraduate Research Physics and Astronomy Division’s Faculty Mentor Award for 2019. 

Dr. Cristian Bahrim

The CUR Physics and Astronomy Division bestows the award each year to recognize and honor mentors in relevant disciplines who have devoted a significant amount of time to mentoring students who want to participate in undergraduate research. Final decisions are made based on the nomination as well as letters of recommendation and curriculum vitae.

“Being a recipient of this national award means a lot to me,” said Bahrim who teaches in the physics department.  “It means that my efforts spread over the years in helping students to become successful in performing research as undergraduates have significance and value. It is always good to see that your effort, as faculty are not spent in vain and people appreciate it.”

Bahrim, a professor in the Physics Department, has been involved in undergraduate research since the spring of 2002 and remembers the first undergraduate research project that he mentored. The project was on the subject of “Time Travel” through the McNair Scholars Program. 

Through undergraduate research, Bahrim and his students have had the opportunity to attend the “Posters on the Hill” event in Washington, D.C., where undergraduate research is presented to policymakers. 

Such meetings that allow students to network with other physicists and professionals is one of the opportunities that Bonnie Ruten, one of Bahrim’s students, appreciates about his teaching and mentoring.

“Dr. Bahrim goes above and beyond to make sure that students are receiving the right information that they need in order to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Ruten. “He’s just a great example of someone who loves what he does.”  

Bahrim says he focuses on making students successful but he also hopes his efforts mentoring students make a difference to Lamar University.  

“I enjoy contributing to Lamar University’s reputation as an institution that focuses on undergraduate research,” said Bahrim. “It is important in order to bring the best students to Lamar University and engage them.”