Hubert James Distinguished Professor of Physics and Department Head
Office: Physics 217
Telephone: (765) 494-3000
Fax: (765) 496-2298
B.S., Purdue University, 1973
Ph.D., Yale University, 1977
- The physics of nanostructures and mesoscopic systems
Over the years my group has studied the properties of very small metallic systems, including such
phenomena as superconductivity in one dimension, the Kondo effect in one and two dimensions, the behavior
of domain walls in very narrow ferromagnetic wires, and fluid flow in extremely small structures. Students
who have been involved in this work include Mark Blachly, Todd Jacobs, Baris Cetin, Jiangtao Cheng, and
Jacob Millspaw. More details along with some of our recent papers are given in the publication list which
you can get at the link near the bottom of this page.
- Musical acoustics and the physics of the piano
We have studied various aspects of the piano including the vibrational properties of the soundboard and the
compression characteristics of the hammers. We have used this information to develop a physical model of the
piano - this model uses Newton's laws to calculate the motion of all of the pieces of a piano along with the
sound pressure which is produced. This work has been done by Andy Korty, James Winans, Stu Dietz, John Millis,
James Roberts, Laura Rueff, and Minghui Jiang. More details of this work, including some of our
recent publications are given at our piano
- Computational neuroscience
We have several ongoing projects in the area of computational neuroscience. Two fundamental questions in this
field are “Where is information stored in the brain and how does the brain learn?” There is very good evidence
that information is stored in synapses – these are connections between neurons – and that information is stored
in the strength of the synaptic connections. So, when the brain learns there must be changes in these connections.
We are studying models of the chemical kinetics and biochemical processes that result in changes in synaptic
strength. One learning process is called spike timing dependent plasticity because the synaptic changes depend on
the relative timing of action potentials in the neurons on either side of a synapse. In some recent work (K. D.
Carlson and N. Giordano, J. Comput. Neurosci. 2010) we have assembled a model that explains the main features of this
- Computational physics
I have had a long standing interest in doing and teaching computational physics. This interest led to my work on
musical acoustics and the piano, and also led to a textbook Computational Physics published by Prentice-Hall.
This book is now in its second edition and is a collaboration
with my colleague Hisao Nakanishi.
- College Physics — Reasoning and Relationships
This is a new introductory textbook intended for life science majors. Check it out at the
Cengage Learning website.
- New book — Physics of the Piano
One of my hobbies is the piano (see my work on musical acoustics above). I have just finished a book on the Physics
of the Piano. You can find more information on it at the
Oxford University Press website. Don’t let the title fool you – this book is for anyone who likes or is curious about the
piano, especially nonscientists.
- Physics of the recorders and flutes
I have just started a study of two of the simplest wind instruments, the recorder and the flute. My goal is to model
these instruments using the fundamental equations of fluid mechanics, the Navier-Stokes equations. This kind of
treatment is needed to describe the complicated vortex motion that takes place near the labium (i.e., near the
mouthpiece). This is a very demanding computation, that for a three dimensional model requires many hours of computer
time to compute just a second of sound. Our first results are described in a paper just submitted to the Journal of
the American Acoustical Society (see my publication list).
Here are movies showing how the air density (which is proportional to the acoustic pressure) and the air speed near
the labium vary with time during the course of about one period of the instrument. This computation was for a recorder.
For the density movies, the color indicates the density, with dark blue being the lowest density and bright red the
highest. As time progresses, the density varies from low (blue) to high (red) as the acoustic pressure (i.e., sound)
oscillates. There is a standing wave in the recorder tube, with a wavelength equal to twice the tube length and nodes
at the two ends of the tube. The movie of the speed shows only the region near the labium, and shows how vortices are
shed as the air jet from the mouthpieces strikes the labium.
Current Graduate Students
- Kris Carlson, Ph.D. May 2011. Thesis title: "How the Brain learns: a Model of Spike timing dependent plasticity"
- Matt Matolcsi, began work June 2010
Awards and Honors
- Named Indiana Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2004
- Purdue University Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in memory of Charles B. Murphy 2003
- Computational Science Education Award 1997
- Herbert Newby McCoy Award, Purdue University 1992
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow 1979-83
- Consultant for Olin Corporation, Metals Research Group 1976
- Phi Beta Kappa; Phi Kappa Phi; Sigma Pi Sigma
- Becton Prize for accomplishments in research, Yale University 1977
- National Science Foundation Fellowship 1974-76
- Yale University Sheffield Fellowship 1973-74
- Department Head, Physics, Purdue University 2007-present
- Associate Dean of Science, Purdue University 2002-03
- Assistant Dean of Science, Purdue University 2000-02
- Professor, Purdue University 1985-present
- Associate Professor, Purdue University 1982-85
- Assistant Professor, Purdue University 1979-82
- Assistant Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Yale University June 1977 - June 1979
- Visiting Scientist, Hahn-Meitner Institute June-August 1977
- Acting Instructor, Yale University January - June 1977
Professional and Scholarly Activities
- Fellow, American Physical Society
- Member, Acoustical Society of America (ASA)
- Member, Technical Committee on Musical Acoustics of the ASA
- Member, Biophysical Society