What Physicists Do

The 98th series of the 'What Physicists Do' public lecture series begins Monday September 9 with a visit from Dr. Laura Sparks of Santa Rosa Junior College. In this presentation, entitled "Astronomy Careers: From Education to Giant Telescopes", Dr. Sparks will discuss her career path in science education, as well as off-the-beaten-path opportunities in astronomy research and outreach. She will share insights from her recent expedition to visit major observatories in the southern hemisphere as an ACEAP (Astronomy in Chile Educational Ambassadors Program) ambassador.


Two new tenure-track hires join the department!

Dr. Alexandra Miller

Dr. Alexandra Miller

Alexandra Miller is thrilled to be joining the physics team at Sonoma State University! A Northern California native, Dr. Miller received her Bachelor of Science degree from San Francisco State University, just across the bay, before pursuing her PhD down south at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After earning her degree, she worked as a Visiting Lecturer at Wellesley College. She‘s now ready to return to her roots, with hopes of inspiring the next generation of physicists, both in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Miller works in the field of theoretical Quantum Gravity and can′t wait to share her passion with the fantastic SSU students. Her research aims to answer one of the biggest open questions in physics today: How can one consistently unite Einstein′s theory of General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics? This is imperative to our understanding of the universe at its most fundamental level and is especially important in finding a complete description of black holes and of the universe right after the big bang. Dr. Miller has several projects she hopes to push forward with the help of SSU students. These experiences will not only expose students to the forefront of Quantum Gravity research, but will also build their skills in theoretical modeling, mathematics, and computer programming.

Dr. James Lee

Dr. James Lee

James Lee is excited to be joining the Department of Physics and Astronomy. James earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. His doctoral work revealed how subtle changes in the shape and orientation of electron orbitals in transition metal salts can profoundly affect their magnetic ordering. He also studied the many different electronic phases in competition with superconductivity in copper oxide superconductors. As a postdoctoral research fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, James helped develop new methods of using coherent x-ray light, generated by synchrotron and free electron x-ray laser sources, to probe the magnetic properties of matter. Prior to joining Sonoma State University, James ran the x-ray and high magnetic field facilities in the University of Illinois Materials Research Laboratory. There, he instructed students on how to use scientific instruments in a wide range of research (e.g., DNA packing in viruses, chemical composition of Roman artifacts, high temperature phase transitions in perovskites), and how to interpret their data.

Dr. Lee′s current research concentrates on the properties of magnetic materials whose electron spins form topologically twisted swirling patterns called skyrmions. He is eager to guide students in research on this topic, as well as to incorporate his broader knowledge of condensed matter physics into classroom instruction.


Department Chair:

Dr. Scott Severson Homepage

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Department of Physics and Astronomy
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3609

Phone: (707)664-2119
Fax: (707)664-3378
Email: phys.astro@sonoma.edu


Physics and Astronomy

Physics is the most fundamental of all the scientific disciplines. Ranging from the applied to the abstract, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, and from quarks to the cosmos, the study of physics seeks to explain all the complicated phenomena in the natural world by providing a description of these phenomena in terms of a few basic principles and laws.

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What Physicists Do

Current Schedule. Our lecture series has brought outstanding scientists and engineers to the campus each week since 1971, including fourteen Nobel laureates. These speakers present lectures ranging from the hottest discoveries in physics and astronomy to inside views of physicists' daily lives at a level undergraduate students can understand.


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