More Accessible Than Ever: The Joy of Theoretical Physics

Release Date: 
Mar 19 2012

This Behind the Scenes article was featured on the LiveScience website in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Yogesh Joglekar, assistant professor of physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Yogesh Joglekar, Assistant Professor of Physics, IUPUI

The term "theoretical physics" may conjure up the image of Albert Einstein's famous hair, Newton's apple or maybe even the fictional transporter room on Star Trek.

Much less likely to come to mind are dynamic young theoretical physicists seeking to gain a better understanding of graphene, the thinnest and strongest nanomaterial known to exist. Equally surprising is the growing number of teens and college undergraduates who are studying extremely difficult problems and publishing papers in top tier physics journals based on research that may advance fiber optics.

Getting graphene

Yogesh Joglekar, assistant professor of physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, works on graphene and optical waveguides, two of the hottest fields in theoretical physics, and mentors a growing number of high school and undergraduate students in those fields.

Supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER award, Joglekar applies tools of theoretical physics — pencil and paper, white board, marker and a computer — to study graphene, the discovery of which earned two researchers a Nobel Prize in 2010. In the near future, graphene, a form of carbon that is only one atom thick, may supplement silicon in many electronics, Joglekar said.

Specifically, he is investigating how electrons and their positively charged, electron-hole counterparts form pairs in graphene. Those pairs, called excitons, can carry electricity without resistance and emit laser-like light.

Read complete story on the LiveScience website.