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Three School of Science Physics Professors Receive Over $500k in Federal Grants to Study Geology, Optical Microstructures, and Atmospheric Science

David McGee
Dr. David McGee (left) with students

Three School of Science faculty members in the TCNJ Department of Physics have been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to support their research programs and engage undergraduate research collaborators in their work. Dr. David McGee, in collaboration with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Heba Abourahma, received an NSF award to study a new microstructural fabrication system based on supramolecular azopolymer materials and digital polarization optics. Dr. Shannon Graham, Assistant Professor of Physics, received an NSF award to advance her work on slow slip episodes, geologic events that have been linked to large earthquakes. Finally, Dr. Nathan Magee, in collaboration with researchers from Pennsylvania State University, received an award from the Department of Energy to conduct a pilot study on the properties of mid-latitude cold clouds.

Heba Abourahma
Dr. Heba Abourahma

Dr. David McGee and Dr. Heba Abourahma have established a fruitful collaboration between their respective physics and chemistry research groups. The team is combining their expertise to work towards the discovery of a new microstructural fabrication system based on supramolecular azopolymer material and digital polarization optics. Their recent three-year NSF award will ultimately lead to scientific discovery in the field of photopatterned surface microstructures. This work will directly impact integrated photonics research, as well as other fields like biochemical sensing and microfluidics. Furthermore their research will be helpful for improving important technologies such as optical document and product security. Finally, McGee and Abourahma’s NSF funding will support undergraduate researchers in physics and chemistry who will gain experience in a multidisciplinary research group and have the opportunity to work with international research teams to advance the project’s goals.

Dr. Shannon Graham
Dr. Shannon Graham

Dr. Shannon Graham joined TCNJ in Fall 2019 and has hit the ground running! Her first NSF grant is a collaboration between TCNJ and Dr. Michael Brudzinski of Miami University in Ohio. This research will further our understanding of subduction megathrust environments with a detailed investigation of the Mexico Subduction zone. To unveil the complex tectonics of the region, the team will use high-precision GPS and seismic recordings collected over two decades as well as updated modeling techniques. Results from this research will have important implications for seismic hazard and risk assessment in Mexico and other regions threatened by megathrust faults. Undergraduate researchers at both institutions will collaborate on this project, and the work will also fund innovative educational strategies for improving student understanding of elastic rebound and the earthquake cycle.

Dr. Nathan Magee (left) with students
Dr. Nathan Magee (left) with students

Dr. Nathan Magee, Professor of Physics, will be working with his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University on a new DOE-funded project: “Characterizing the Small-Scale Dynamical, Ice Microphysical, and Residual Aerosol Properties of Mid-Latitude Cold Clouds: A Pilot Study.” The Magee lab will conduct field and laboratory measurements and oversee imaging and analysis of collected particle samples. The project will also involve collaborations between physics and engineering undergraduate researchers at TCNJ, allowing for multidisciplinary experiences and training for these students.

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