Recent News and Events

Alan Denton's Service to University Honored

Professor Alan Denton has been awarded the 2021 "College of Science and Mathematics Service Award".  This is a great recognition of all of Alan's contributions to the running of the university at all levels (Community, University, College, Department).  Of particular importance to the Physics Department are Alan’s unwavering commitment to inclusion and equity in growing the graduate program in our department, and Alan’s leadership in developing outreach opportunities in order to bring joy and appreciation of science to our local community.  Thank you, Alan, for all you do!

NSF funds Croll Group Research

This fall Principle Investigator (PI) Andrew Croll was awarded a $240,256 grant to investigate "Advanced Adhesion from Origami Inspired Thin-Film Mechanics".  The work centers on discovering, explaining, and using thin films to create adhesive devices that can withstand rough substrates (try using tape on a rough brick) or devices that can switch from low to high adhesive states (on-off adhesion). Thin films are easily bent but are often difficult to stretch (try to stretch a sheet of paper).  This contrast in physics is exploited through origami design, where sheets are easily bent into a configuration that can direct stress along the sheets dimensions.

Theresa Elder, a Materials and Nanotechnology graduate school has authored the first paper funded by the work titled "Adhesion of a Tape Loop".  In this paper, Theresa explains the shape a thin sheet initially made into a cylindrical loop takes on as it is increasingly confined between two parallel walls.  The paper also garnered the 'inside back' cover of the edition it was published in.  Great work Theresa!

Fouling Resistant Surfaces

Navy vessels face many challenges during their deployments, however, some of the biggest might not be what you think.  Below the waterline, many organisms attempt to colonize the ship hull, leading to increased drag and power consumption.  Above the waterline, in cold waters, ice will build up leading to increased weight and decreased function.  Better coatings could cure both problems at the same time!  Dean Webster and Andrew Croll have partnered with Anish Tuteja (University of Michigan) and the Office of Naval Research in order to develop next-generation "solid-shedding surfaces".

"The field has largely been lead by thoughtful empirical work, but our goal is to determine simple, fundamental guidelines for designing these surfaces" said Croll.  "We will examine how existing polymer coatings, next generation coatings, as well as model surfaces interact with water on large and small scales.  The work should advance our understanding of soft, solvent filled surfaces, basic adhesive processes and measurements as well as have the payout of practical, scalable coating systems".

Andrei Kryjevski Receives NSF support!

Andrei Kryjevski is a co-PI on a grant funded by the National Science Foundation, which is entitled ``Modeling of Charge Transfer Processes in Heterostructured Nanocomposites".  The award of $499,998 is for three-years. Developing energy sources that are both sustainable and efficient is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. One attractive technology is solar-based fuel cells that utilize solar energy to create hydrogen from water, which is then used as a fuel which produces no harmful air pollutants. However, cost, efficiency, and durability are the main factors that hinder large-scale use of the fuel cells. One way to overcome these challenges is to utilize nanoparticles called quantum dots. A quantum dot is a piece of material which is few nanometers in size and contains just hundreds or thousands of atoms.  It turns out properties of a quantum dot are significantly altered by attaching just a single molecule to its surface. This modification is done in a way that enhances properties of quantum dots needed for their uses in solar energy conversion to chemical or electrical energy, such as solar-based fuel cells. However, precise control over the processes governing interactions between molecules and quantum dots is currently lacking. To close this gap in our knowledge, Prof. Kryjevski, in collaboration with Profs. Kilina and Kilin (NDSU Chemistry) are developing and applying computational methods that model processes taking place in quantum dots with complicated surface structure. Computational predictions obtained from this research are expected to guide design of quantum dot-based materials for energy applications. This project serves students, industry, state, and the nation. It provides comprehensive instruction and research experience in the computational chemistry and physics for graduate and undergraduate students. Availability of remote training and research activities for this project is expected to increase participation of increase participation of individuals with family obligations and Native American students. Thus, this project helps train diverse STEM workforce with the skills and knowledge critical for the design of novel materials for energy applications.

Croll Group gains Army Research Office Support

The Croll group is proud to be working for the Army Research Office, through their recent grant "Guided Energy Absorption with Crumpled Polymer Sheets".  The research, conducted in collaboration with Co-PI Wenjie Xia (Civil Engineering, NDSU), will examine how energy is absorbed as randomly folded films are crushed.   The work will examine well-controlled polymer films created in the Croll Lab, as they are crushed by flat walls, sharp points, and other geometries at various different speeds, even up to ballistic.  Professor Xia will model the systems with Coarse Grained Molecular Dynamics simulations, which will be tuned to the exact properties of the experimental systems.  The work may lead to novel helmet design, packaging, and energy absorbing structures.  Ph.D. student funding is available!

Alan Denton Receives NSF Grant

The department is excited to announce that Alan Denton's grant entitled "Response of Soft Colloids and Macromolecules to Crowded Environments: Theoretical and Computational Modeling.” was recently funded by the National Science Foundation.  The three-year award of $266,039 will support theoretical and computational research to better understand and facilitate the design of smart materials, which are made of building blocks, such as soft colloidal particles and flexible macromolecules, whose size, shape, and softness respond to changes in external stimuli. Of particular interest are microgels, which are microscopic gel particles, made of porous, elastic networks of polymers (chain-like molecules) that swell by absorbing solvent. The degree of swelling can be controlled by adjusting temperature, acidity, and concentration of the solution, resulting in adaptive properties that equip microgels to serve as biosensors and drug delivery vehicles in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries. While past experimental and modeling studies have explored elastic properties of single particles and collective behavior of bulk solutions, an outstanding challenge is to link single-particle and multi-particle properties of these materials. Specific unresolved issues concern the role of electric charge in determining microgel swelling and the influence of particle softness on macromolecular crowding in biological cells. Broader impacts of this project include development of novel theories and computer simulation algorithms that can guide the interpretation of experiments and design of smart materials; science outreach activities with students at K-12 schools and tribal colleges; and mentoring and training of graduate and undergraduate students for careers in computational science.

Dr. Mila Kryjevskaia Awarded James A. Meier Junior Professorship!!!

It is with great excitement that the Faculty of the Department of physics report that Mila Kryjevskaia has been awarded the James A. Meier Junior Professorship!  In her 12 years at NDSU, Dr. Kryjevskaia has worked tirelessly to discover, use, and communicate to peers better teaching methods at NDSU. Her groundbreaking work on revealing and addressing conceptual challenges and cognitive errors encountered by students of physics has profoundly impacted faculty and students at all levels at NDSU and the world at large. We can think of no one who better fits the goals of this award, to recognize contributions to teaching through research, with the primary criterion of demonstrated success interacting with students.

Joining NDSU in 2008 as an Assistant Professor with a shared appointment in the Department of Physics (80%) and the School of Education (20%), Dr. Kryjevskaia has also been a leading member of the interdisciplinary STEM Education Doctoral Program from its inception. In 2015, she earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor.  Since her start, Dr. Kryjevskaia has published many significant works, educated many educators and students, and received external funding for her research. 

Congratulations Mila!

The professorship endowment is funded by James A. Meier, BS ’59, mathematics. He earned his chemistry doctorate in 1971 and an honorary doctorate from NDSU in 2007.  The department would also like to thank James for founding and funding this prestigious professorship.

Physics Department COVID-19 Information

Chair's Statement:

"In view of the extended Pass/Fail Grading Option this semester, the Department of Physics will allow P grades to satisfy normal grade requirements for PHYS courses taken by Physics majors (including double majors) in the Spring 2020 semester. While we encourage students to opt for a letter grade, we also recognize that those who are disadvantaged by their current personal situation should not face additional barriers that delay progress or graduation. Those who make use of the Pass/Fail Grading Option will not be disadvantaged based on that choice."

-Sylvio May


Additional resources:

NDSU COVID-19 Information

Pass/Fail grading option and Adjusted Spring Dates/Deadlines

Erik Hobbie Receives College of Science and Mathematics Research Award

Erik Hobbie has been awarded the College of Science and Mathematics Research Award.  This is a great and well deserved honor for Erik, who is a faculty member who's appointment is a 60% Physics, 40% polymers and coatings split.  In his 10 years at NDSU, Erik has built a thriving, internationally recognized research group, he has published 41 papers in high ranking journals and he has personally secured over 1 Million in external research funding.  Several of his articles have been honored with journal covers.  Most remarkably, he has done all this while leading NDSU’s Materials and Nanotechnology program, a significant administrative burden.

Erik’s early work in polymer science at the National Institute of Standards and Technology lead him to his current focus on light/nanoparticle interactions in soft materials.  The driving goal of his plan is to make progress towards solutions for one of the world’s greatest challenges, the development of clean sources of energy.  His work has focused on carbon and silicon nanostructures, specifically because these materials are abundant and non-toxic.  While light can easily be harvested by cadmium-selinide particles, their environmental toxicity would kill any real-world application.  It is this pragmatic view – that the research must not only solve big problems, but actually be usable – that makes Erik’s work so unique, and such a good fit to the values held by the people of the state of North Dakota.


On October 29, around twilight, Grad Phi students hosted a booth of science demonstrations and activities at Boo! at NDSU, a family-friendly, Halloween-themed carnival and trick-or-treating event organized by Residence Life. Over 750 costumed kids haunted Cater Hall and learned some tricks about cryogenics (liquid nitrogen and marshmallows), soft matter (soap films, slime and candy), and rotational motion (spinning wheel). A fun time was had by all.

Red River Market Outreach

On October 5, the NDSU Physics Graduate Student Organization, Grad Phi, hosted a science outreach event at the Red River Market in downtown Fargo. Curious market-goers stopped by to learn about the science of soap bubbles, rotational motion, and optical illusions.  Despite the rain, a good time was had by all!

Research Paper Highlighted

Alan Denton and graduate student Mohammed Alziyadi have published a paper entitled "Osmotic pressure of permeable ionic microgels: Poisson-Boltzmann theory and exact statistical mechanical relations in the cell model" in the Journal of Chemical Physics.  The work was honored as the "editor's pick", which means it stood out to the editor as a particularly interesting and important work.  More great research from NDSU Physics!

Department Receives Advancing Inclusion Award!

The department is quite honored and humbled to receive the "NDSU Advancing Inclusion Award" this year.  The Advancing Inclusion Award is presented annually "to an NDSU department, committee, group or unit that has worked collaboratively to promote an inclusive culture by enhancing or contributing to the overall environment of the community or university.".  The department is especially proud that its nomination came from the NDSU Physics Graduate Student Association.  The department has taken great efforts to find and invest in programs and opportunities that create an inclusive atmosphere for students here at NDSU, and we hope that this is a good sign that it is paying off.  Read more here.

Chair receives honor

Recently, Sylvio May was awarded the Ambassadors Excellence Award award by the NDSU College of Science and Mathematics Ambassadors (a student group).  Sylvio was nominated for (among other things) his exceptional efforts in supporting student success in introductory physics courses.  Sylvio holds great esteem for the award specifically because it was entirely driven by the students involved.  Congratulations Sylvio!

Faculty Publishes in Nature Communications

The Croll research group has had a recent work published in the high-impact, open-access journal Nature Communications.  The work is focused on understanding the strength of a crumpled ball - a rigid object created from a thin film (such as paper).  Such an object is a complex collection of folds and verticies that somehow collectively give the system a significant resistance to compression.  The system has significant potential for use as an engineering material akin to a foam, but one that is much more easily produced.  Read about it here, where you can also find a link to the freely available article!

Student Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowship

Brianna Santangelo, was notified recently that she will receive a 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship!  This prestigious award is a significant national accomplishment that our entire department is proud of.  The funding will allow Brianna to continue working towards her Ph.D. in physics, and more specifically to continue her research in physics education with her supervisor Mila Kryjevski.  Read about the program here.


Experiments in Physics, performed by Alistair McInery, Lina Alhalhooly, Tim Twohig, Jamie Froberg, Rachel Downing Brian Farlow, Wathsala Jayawardana and Deyan Mihaylov, came in second place in the Avenues of Scientific Discovery Grad Student Competition.  Congratulations all!

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