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Physics & Astronomy research

WKU Physics and Astronomy


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Physics and Astronomy 
Western Kentucky University 
1906 College Heights Blvd #11077 
Bowling Green, KY 42101-1077 

Phone: 270-745-4357 

Fax: 270-745-2014



Research Activities in the WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy

Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are engaged in a wide variety of research projects. All students who major in Physics are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this unique research opportunity which may take the form of a specific project with credit given in a course such as PHYS 399-Research Problems in Physics or may involve the student as a paid undergraduate research assistant. Quite often this work will lead to an opportunity for the student to make a formal presentation at a local, state or national scientific conference. This practical research experience often proves extremely beneficial to the student when seeking employment or admission to graduate programs.

   Tim Morgan
 Tim Morgan at the Posters-at-the-Capitol in Frankfort.

Applied Physics

Applied Physics Institute (API) is a multidisciplinary research center. API researchers use fundamental physics principles to address research issues of technological importance at the frontiers of science and engineering. Research areas include nuclear physics, nanoscale physics, material science, and cyber physical systems.

The API team performs research in non-desctructive measurements of the elemental content in bulk compounds using neutrons, x-ray diffraction and x-ray fluorescence studies of materials, surface analysis, computational physics, and artificial olfactory using nanomaterials.

The Institute has about 15,000 sq. ft of laboratory space at the WKU Center for Research and Development.

Students are actively involved in these projects while gaining useful experience in research environment. We are extremely proud of the involvement of our undergraduate students in research, and their commitment to their discipline.

For additional information contact Dr. Vladimir Dobrokhotov, Dr. Phil Womble, Dr. Doug Harper, Dr. Ivan Novikov Dr. Edward Kintzel or visit the Applied Physics Institute web site at



API students and staff
Students and professors at the Applied Physics Institute. 

Astronomy and Astrophysics

The department operates the Bell Astrophysical Observatory, located in a dark sky site 11 miles southwest of campus. The observatory contains a fully automated 24" research-grade telescope and state of the art CCD camera. This facility is used by faculty and students studying the brightness variations in quasars, searching for transits of extra-solar planets, and morphological studies of extended regions in the Milky Way and other galaxies. In addition, faculty and students make use of ground-based telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii, as well as observatories in Earth orbit such as the Hubble Space Telescope. The Institute for Astrophysics and Space Science is also a member of the University's Program of Distinction.

For additional information contact any of the astrophysics faculty members (Dr. Mike Carini, Dr. Richard Gelderman, Dr. Charles McGruder, Dr. Louis-Gregory Strolger, Dr. Steven Gibson) or visit



The main emphasis of Dr. van der Meer's research is Resonance Energy Transfer, also called Fluorescence (with) Resonance Energy Transfer. This is a spectroscopic technique to measure distances in the 10 to 100 Angstrom range (1 - 10 nanometer). It is widely used in Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry.

George Coker III who graduated in 1994 participated in the publication of the book, "Resonance Energy Transfer. Theory and Data", Wiley-VCH. This book came out in 1994, and the authors were B.W. van der Meer, G. Coker III, and S.-Y. Chen. George did an extensive literature search for the book. He basically wrote Chapter 7, which is full of tables containing relevant data from the literature.

Students who are interested in theoretical work will have opportunities to do simulations and calculations about the so-called kappa-squared, which is an orientation factor (see the recent publication: "Kappa-squared. From nuisance to new sense." by dr. van der Meer, Reviews in Molecular Biotechnology 82(2002)181-196.

Cyber Defense

The Cyber Defense Laboratory conducts research to solve cyber security and counter cyber terrorism problems for both civilian and military customers. The CDL also works on the protection and encryption of digital data, identities, finances and transactions, and intrusion detection and prevention methodologies. The Cyber Defense Laboratory works to enhance the nation’s security from external threat via computer intrusion, and contributes to the region’s economic development by creating a highly-educated cyber defense workforce. As part of this effort, the CDL strives to provide educational experiences in cyber security for students. For additional information contact Dr. Keith Andrew or visit the CDL web site at

Physics Education Research

Physics teaches problem-solving and fundamental understanding of the world around us. This skill and knowledge is increasingly important in our technological society, but many students find physics quite difficult. Physics Education Research seeks to uncover the root of these difficulties and to develop effective teaching methods that enable all students to develop a better understanding of the most basic of sciences. At Western Kentucky University the active areas of work are: using technology to support effective teaching practices, using the world-wide web and Java for homework and other applications, and teaching good problem-solving methods. Facilities include a state-of-the-art active learning classroom equipped with networked laptop computers and projection system, and a web server with several different web-homework systems. Projects that students can be involved in range from interviews and classroom observations to advanced web programming. For more information, please see Dr. Scott Bonham.

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 Last Modified 9/25/14