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Research Groups

Hillary Smith's group at the Spallation Neutron Source

Experimental Physics

Michael Brown studies magnetic reconnection in his Swarthmore Spheromak eXperiment (SSX). Condensed matter physics is done by Peter Collings (now emeritus, but still active in his lab), who studies liquid crystals. Hillary Smith works on materials physics and energy storage materials. Cacey Bester studies granular materials.

Theoretical Physics

Amy Graves (now emeritus, but still doing research and in the department) works on simulations of condensed matter systems. Tristan Smith works on questions in cosmology (the composition and evolution of the universe) and gravitational physics.


Swarthmore's emphasis has traditionally been on stellar astrophysics. David Cohen studies the X-rays, winds, and magnetospheres of hot, massive stars. Eric Jensen works on star formation and circumstellar disks, including X-rays from young stars, along with Cohen. Both Jensen and Cohen use the Peter van de Kamp Observatory to study transiting exoplanets. Radio astronomer Jesse Rivera works on dusty star forming galaxies.

Physics Education Research

Catherine Crouch and Ben Geller work together on evaluating the effectiveness of physics instruction, focusing presently on the role of life science examples in the introductory physics curriculum for biochemistry and biology majors. Both also participate in other educational assessment efforts at the College.

Research Facilities

Each faculty member has a lab in the Science Center. Experimentalists Bester, and Smith have their labs on the ground level of the Science Center, directly below the Eldridge Commons, while Brown and Collings have theirs on the first floor of the department, down the hall from the department office. The theorists, Smith and Graves, and astrophysicists, Cohen and Jensen, have computer rooms/labs on the first floor of the department as well. We have a 24-inch telescope (with a large-format CCD camera, two full filter sets and an H-alpha filter, and a high-resolution spectrograph) on the roof of the Science Center - in the Peter van de Kamp Observatory.