Research Opportunities

All Physics faculty engage interested students in cutting-edge research programs. One of the distinguishing features of a liberal arts university experience is that the student works side-by-side with a faculty member in their research lab; there is no infrastructure separating the undergraduate and the Principal Investigator, such as exists at major research universities. At USD, this affords valuable hands-on experiences that contribute enormously to our students' growth and success as independent critical thinkers.

Students may earn upper division credit for research during the semester or during the summer for pay (including a stipend, on-campus housing and a supplies budget). Many student researchers present their results at local, national and international scientific conferences including:

  • American Physical Society
  • UCSD Summer Research Conference
  • Creative Collaborations

Student may also have their research published in physics publications including the American Journal of Physics and the Foundations of Physics, to name a few.

Faculty-student collaborative research in Physics is supported via grants from various funding agencies:

  • National Science Foundation
  • US Department of Energy
  • Research Corporation

Research grants totaling over $400,000 have been awarded to the department since 2003.

The bulk of our research activities take place during the summer months. Faculty mentors work closely with students on both USD funded projects and externally funded research projects. This page is designed to be a resource for students seeking summer research opportunities at USD as well as other institutions.

Obtaining a Summer Research Position

  • Browse the department website and read over the faculty bios.
  • Think about your personal scientific interests. Are you interested in biophysics? Thermodynamics? Nanotechnology? Laser spectroscopy? Astrophysics? Plasma Physics? Try to mesh your interests with that of a particular faculty member.
  • Make an appointment to discuss research opportunities with a faculty member.
  • In collaboration with a faculty mentor, pursue funding opportunities (see below).

Research Opportunities

The SURE Scholars program that provides financial resources for students (and faculty) participating in summer research.

The Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) is an eight-week educational summer research program designed to give entering students (first-year or transfer) the opportunity to get involved in a research project the summer before beginning their first year at USD.

Research is at the heart of USD McNair Scholars. Participants are partnered with faculty mentors in their discipline and formulate a research plan. In summer, Scholars receive stipends to support their research projects. USDMcNair further supports the publication and presentation of participants' results in journals and professional conferences.

A National Science Foundation (NSF) program that supports undergraduate research at one of several sites scattered throughout the country. Students travel to these NSF sponsored sites and participate in active research with a faculty mentor. This is a competitive program but the experience is invaluable. Visit the REU website for more information.

The National Undergraduate Fellowship Program in Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy Sciences (NUF) program provides outstanding undergraduates with an opportunity to conduct research in the disciplines that comprise the plasma sciences in general and fusion research in particular. The program is intended primarily for students completing their junior year majoring in physics or engineering, but highly motivated students completing their sophomore year are encouraged to apply as well.

The nine-week long research projects are performed at one of the many participating universities and national laboratories throughout the country. The goal of the program is to stimulate students' interest in the fields relevant to fusion research while providing capable assistants for fusion research projects.

In order that the students obtain a sufficient background to begin their research projects, the nine week project is preceded by a one week introductory course at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in the basic elements of plasma physics, after which the students travel to the sites of their research projects.

Awardees receive a stipend, housing and travel support. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fusion Energy Sciences. Please visit the NUF website for more information.

Rae Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor, Physics Department
(619) 260-8867

Gregory Severn, PhD

Professor, Physics Department
(619) 260-6845

Daniel Sheehan, PhD

Professor, Physics Department
(619) 260-4095