Condensed Matter and Materials Physics

Condensed matter physics is the study of the properties and physics of solid, crystalline, soft, and liquid materials and structures, which form the basis of electronic and optical technologies, and biological systems. As the largest field within physics, it includes a wide range of sub-fields such as quantum information, nanoscience, photonics, biophysics, and is often interdisciplinary in nature. Our theorists and experimentalists explore topics such as quantum sensing and information processing; quantum coherent dynamics of spins; spin phenomena in nanostructures; mid-infrared photonics; photonic engineering with metamaterials, plasmonics, and cavities; electronic bandstructure engineering and carrier dynamics in semiconductor superlattices, nanowires, and heterostructures; magnetic field effects in organic materials; optoelectronic bio- and chemical-sensors; and lasers in medicine.

STM image of InAs/GaSb superlattice

STM image of InAs/GaSb superlattice showing individual atoms


InAs nanowires

Our experimentalists use both their own labs, which include tools for electronic, optical, and magnetic characterization of materials, and central user facilities in the Iowa Advanced Technology Building as part of the highly interdisciplinary Iowa Center for Research, Exploration, Advanced Technology in Engineering and Science (Iowa CREATES). These user facilities include the MATfab, which has tools for micro- and nano-fabrication of materials, as well as imaging; and the Molecular Beam Epitaxy Facility for epitaxial growth of semiconductor heterostructures. Theoretical calculations and simulations make use of University of Iowa’s High Performance Computing resources.

dipole emission

Dipole emission pattern near metallic surface

We offer a special graduate sequence taught over a two-year cycle: Semiconductor Physics, Advanced Optics, Advanced Condensed Matter, and Thin Film Materials. In addition, for those needing an introduction to this area, our department offers Introduction Solid State Physics, and Introduction to Optics, which are mixed undergrad / grad classes. There is a particularly wide job market for students trained in this area, with excellent opportunities in industry, government labs, and academia. Our strong research collaboration with industrial partners aids students in finding jobs.

Condensed-matter theory; materials theory; quantum coherent systems and quantum information

John A. Goree

Experimental plasma physics; statistical physics; soft condensed matter physics.

  • Dusty plasma, strongly-coupled plasma, optical diagnostics of plasmas, waves
  • Physics problems are interdisciplinary, combining condensed matter, statistical physics, and plasma physics; experiments involve direct comparisons to theory
  • Experiments are performed in our labs. Data from experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) are also analyzed
  • Two labs with plasma chambers and optical diagnostics
  • Students also interact with group members including a research scientist; other faculty and research scientists; collaborators in other countries
  • Students develop skills including design, construction, and operation of: vacuum, electronic, optical, and laser systems; programming in various languages; image analysis

Dr. Kurian’s Quantum Biology Laboratory (QBL) explores fundamental questions at the nexus of quantum theory, electrodynamics, and biosystems, using tools from theoretical physics, condensed matter, quantum optics, molecular biology, ultrafast spectroscopy, and supercomputing to understand how collective, cooperative, and coherent behaviors in living matter can be manifested robustly across diverse scales from hadrons to humans, and beyond. In collaboration with University of Iowa researchers, the QBL is developing theory for quantum field descriptions of light-matter interactions in aqueous environments, and for two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy experiments to probe the correlated dynamics of enzyme systems.

Yannick Meurice

Theoretical elementary particle physics; lattice gauge theory; optical lattices.

  • Lattice field theory
  • QuLat Collaboration
  • Quantum computing for quantum field theory
  • Quantum simulation of condensed matter models
  • Renormalization group methods
  • Composite Brout-Englert-Higgs bosons
  • Decays of B-mesons (with the theory group at Fermilab)
  • Gauge interactions on optical lattices
  • Numerical simulations on home made clusters and at national facilities
  • Quantum Field Theory methods: Feynman diagrams, strong-coupling expansion, large-N approximations
  • Employment of former students: postdocs at five major universities in the U.S. and one in Ireland; senior research scientist in driving simulation project; software engineer in industry; college instructor; medical physics
  • Students can be involved with the theory group at Fermilab
  • Students are involved weekly in two seminars
  • Students travel to summer schools and conferences
John P. Prineas

Experimental semiconductor physics

  • Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
  • Optics and Photonics
  • Short-, mid-, and long-wave infrared semiconductor optoelectronics and photonics
  • Carrier dynamics and transport in semiconductor superlattices, nanowires, heterostructures
  • Photonic engineering at the nano- to micro-scale: plasmonics, metamaterials, cavities  
  • Electronic engineering in semiconductor heterostructures
  • Optical chemical sensing, thermal scene projection, artificial intelligence  
  • Facilities include ultrafast optics labs, use of the Molecular Beam Epitaxy Facility for III-V semiconductor growth, and the MATfab for materials micro- and nano-fabrication and imaging.
  • Students work in an interdisciplinary environment in Iowa CREATES, are supported by research assistantships, publish and present at national\international conferences
Craig Pryor

Theoretical condensed matter

  • Electronic, optical, and spin-related properties of semiconductor nanostructures
  • Computational materials physics
  • Applications to nanoelectronic and optoelectronic devices, quantum computation, and THz sources
  • Students develop skills in numerical methods and programming C++ and python
fatima toor

Experimental semiconductor optoelectronics

  • Ultraviolet (UV) to terahertz (THz) semiconductor optoelectronics and photonics research
  • Engineering of the properties of electrons, photons, and phonons in micro- and nano-structured materials
  • Computer-based analytical modeling
  • Target applications include photovoltaics, biosensors, midinfrared light emitters as well as fundamental science discovery
  • Facilities include an optical lab
  • Use of shared facilities on-campus: MATFab, and Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) lab and Central Microscopy Research Facility (CMRF)
  • Team alumni have obtained positions in industry, academia, and national research labs
Markus Wohlgenannt

Experimental polymer physics.

  • Magnetotransport and spin-dependent effects in organic semiconductors
  • Organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells
  • Thin film solar cells based on hybrid perovskites
  • Light absorption, reflection and emission, continuous wave photo-induced (nonlinear) absorption
  • Facilities include a spectroscopy facility using a cw laser; glove-box and clean-room for fabrication or organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells, magnetoresistance measurement setup.