Frank Peiris works with his students on nanostructures and optical and electronic properties of thin films.

Areas of Expertise

Nanostructures and optical and electronic properties of thin films.


1999 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Notre Dame

1996 — Master of Science from University of Notre Dame

1993 — Bachelor of Science from Goshen College

Courses Recently Taught

This course is the first course in a one-year introductory physics sequence. Topics include Newtonian mechanics, work and energy, fluids, and electric fields. When possible, examples will relate to life-science contexts. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Knowledge of calculus is not required. Prerequisite: sophomore standing and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 131. Offered every fall.

This seminar will explore a significant current topic in physics that will challenge first-year students. The topic varies from year to year. In the past, the seminar has explored such topics such nanoscience, astrophysics, particle physics, biological physics and gravitation. In addition to introducing the fundamental physics connected with these topics, the course will expose students to recent developments, as the topics are often closely related to the research area of faculty teaching the seminar. The seminar meets one evening a week for lectures, discussions, laboratory experiments and computer exercises. This course fulfills the concurrent laboratory requirement of PHYS 140 and serves as solid preparation for PHYS 146. Prerequisite: first-year students who are concurrently enrolled in or have placed out of PHYS 140. Offered every fall.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 135 or 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments demonstrating the phenomena of waves, optics, X-rays, and atomic and nuclear physics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques include the use of lasers, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, optical spectroscopy, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data, as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 or 141 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 145. Offered every spring.

The course begins with a discussion of the wave nature of light. The remainder of the course is concerned with the study of electromagnetic waves and their interactions with lenses, apertures of various configurations and matter. Topics include the properties of waves, reflection, refraction, interference, and Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction, along with Fourier optics and coherence theory. Prerequisite: PHYS 350 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.

Modern field theories may find their inspiration in the quest for understanding the most fundamental forces of the universe, but they find crucial tests and fruitful applications when used to describe the properties of the materials that make up our everyday world. In fact, these theories have made great strides in allowing scientists to create new materials with properties that have revolutionized technology and our daily lives. This course will include crystal structure as the fundamental building block of most solid materials; how crystal lattice periodicity creates electronic band structure; the electron-hole pair as the fundamental excitation of the "sea" of electrons; and Bose-Einstein condensation as a model for superfluidity and superconductivity. Additional topics will be selected from the renormalization group theory of continuous phase transitions, the interaction of light with matter, magnetic materials and nanostructures. There will be a limited number of labs on topics such as crystal growth, X-ray diffraction as a probe of crystal structure, specific heat of metals at low temperature and spectroscopic ellipsometry. Prerequisite: PHYS 360. Offered every other year.

This course will build upon the foundation developed in PHYS 240 and 241 for measuring and analyzing electrical signals in DC and AC circuits, introducing students to many of the tools and techniques of modern electronics. Familiarity with this array of practical tools will prepare students for engaging in undergraduate research opportunities as well as laboratory work in graduate school or industry settings. Students will learn to use oscilloscopes, meters, LabVIEW and various other tools to design and characterize simple analog and digital electronic circuits. The project-based approach used in this and associated courses (PHYS 381 and 382) fosters independence and creativity. The hands-on nature of the labs and projects will help students build practical experimental skills including schematic and data sheet reading, soldering, interfacing circuits with measurement or control instruments and troubleshooting problems with components, wiring and measurement devices. In each electronics course, students will practice documenting work thoroughly, by tracking work in lab notebooks with written records, diagrams, schematics, data tables, graphs and program listings. Students will also engage in directed analysis of the theoretical operation of components and circuits through lab notebook explanations, worksheets and occasional problem sets. Students may be asked to research and present to the class a related application of the principles learned during investigations. This course is required as part of the one (1) unit of upper-level experimental physics coursework to complete the major in physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 240. Offered every year and runs the first half of the semester only.

In this course, students will explore circuit design and analysis for active and passive analog circuit elements, from the physics of the components (semiconductor diodes, transistors) to the behavior of multi-stage circuits. Experiments will explore transistors, amplifiers, amplifier design and frequency-sensitive feedback networks. Prerequisite: PHYS 380 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs the second half of the semester only.

This course is an introduction to upper-level experimental physics that will prepare students for work in original research in physics and for work in industry applications of physics. Students will acquire skills in experimental design, observation, material preparation and handling, and equipment calibration and operation. Experiments will be selected to introduce students to concepts, techniques and equipment useful in understanding physical phenomena across a wide range of physics subdisciplines, with the twofold goal of providing a broad overview of several branches of experimental physics and preparing students to undertake any experiments in PHYS 386 and 387. This course is required as part of the one (1) unit of upper-level experimental physics coursework to complete the major in Physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 241 and 245. Offered every year and runs the first half of the semester only.

In this course students will explore fundamental physical interactions between light and matter, such as Compton scattering, Rayleigh and Mie scattering, and matter-antimatter annihilation, while also learning to use common nuclear and optical detection and analysis techniques. Prerequisite: PHYS 385 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs the second half of the semester only.

In this course students will probe the structure of solids using X-ray crystallography and atomic force microscopy, study the physical properties of semiconductors, and use the manipulation of magnetic fields to examine the resonant absorption of energy in atoms and nuclei. Prerequisite: PHYS 385 (may be taken in the same semester). Offered in alternate years and runs the second half of the semester only.

Section 01 (0.25 units): In this course students will conduct research, synthesize and share experiences, attend professional presentations in the department, and present their research with oral and written presentations. Students will complete a minimum of three hours of independent research under the supervision of a faculty member as well as participate in discussion sections and other commitments as designed by the instructor. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.\n\nSection 02 (0.5 units): This section carries the same requirements as Section 01, except that the time commitment is six to eight hours of individual research under the supervision of a faculty member. This section represents a significant commitment to a research project. Enrollment in this section requires consultation with the department chair. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.

Individual studies may involve various types of inquiry: reading, problem solving, experimentation, computation, etc. To enroll in individual study, a student must identify a physics faculty member willing to guide the course and work with that professor to develop a description. The description should include topics and content areas, learning goals, prior coursework qualifying the student to pursue the study, resources to be used (e.g., specific texts, instrumentation), a list of assignments and the weight of each in the final grade, and a detailed schedule of meetings and assignments. The student must submit this description to the Physics Department chair. In the case of a small-group individual study, a single description may be submitted and all students must follow that plan. The amount of work in an individual study should approximate the work typically required in other physics courses of similar types at similar levels, adjusted for the amount of credit to be awarded. An individual study course in physics is designed for .25 unit of credit. Individual study courses should supplement, not replace, courses regularly offered by the department. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Individual studies do not count towards the QR (quantitative reasoning) requirement. If a student wishes to satisfy the QR requirement through an individual study in physics, they must receive approval through the college petition process.