Department of Physics

Natalia Solorzano, Ph.D.

Natalia Solorzano, Associate Professor, Department of Physics at DigiPen

Department Chair, Physics
Associate Professor, Physics

Natalia N. Solorzano holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, as well as a Master of Science in Meteorology and a doctorate in Space Geophysics from the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil. She was previously a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the University of Washington and an Assistant Professor at Bard High School Early College. She conducts research in atmospheric physics and physics-based simulation, often with DigiPen students. Her research interests include atmospheric electricity and lightning, the global atmospheric circuit, passive microwave remote sensing, and tropical cyclones.

Dr. Solorzano publishes her work in journals such as Atmospheric Environment, Atmospheric Research, Eos (Earth and Space Science News), and Geophysical Research Letters. She often gives presentations at gatherings such as the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, the IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society Annual Meeting, and the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. She is a steering committee member of the atmospheric electricity section of the American Meteorological Society.

In 2008, along with Jeremy Thomas, she was the recipient of a Science and Math Improvement Grant from the Toshiba America Foundation. In 2017, Solorzano and Thomas received the Amazon Catalyst Award of Merit, along with BSCS graduate Connor Bracy and Professor Robert Holzworth from the University of Washington. In the same year, Thomas and Solorzano were also awarded a National Science Foundation grant for the project “Collaborative Research: Balloon Campaign to Quantify Thunderstorm Effects on the Global Electric Circuit.”

At DigiPen, Dr. Solorzano is the chair of the Physics Department, chair of the Diversity Committee, and a member of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee. Her teaching philosophy is geared toward experiential learning, engaging students in critical thinking, and encouraging students to take ownership of their education. She also believes that cultural, economic, and social diversity enhance the learning environment, and is committed to increasing diversity among the students and faculty.

Dr. Solorzano’s latest publications from 2016 - 2017 (as of November 2017) are:

  • Solorzano, N. N., J. N. Thomas, C. Bracy (2017) “Real-time monitoring of tropical cyclones with lightning and microwave imagery,” Eos Project Update (manuscript accepted; in production phase Nov 2017).
  • Solorzano, N. N., J. N. Thomas, M. L. Hutchins, and R. H. Holzworth (2016), “WWLLN lightning and satellite microwave radiometrics at 37 to 183 GHz: Thunderstorms in the broad tropics,” J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 121, 12,298–12,318, doi:10.1002/ 2016JD025374.

Erik Mohrmann, Ph.D.

Erik Mohrmann, Associate Professor, Department of Physics at DigiPen

Dean of Faculty
Professor, Physics

Dr. Erik Mohrmann studied psychology and physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. He then moved to Seattle and earned his doctorate in physics at the University of Washington. He thoroughly enjoyed teaching at both institutions and has continued his teaching career at DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Mohrmann's academic interests include learning models, the biological basis of behavior, nuclear astrophysics, and computational physics simulation, with most of his research in the latter two areas. His current research interests include stellar nuclear reactions and the modeling of deformable bodies.

Professor Mohrmann believes it is of critical importance to make topics pertinent, comprehensible, and interesting to each specific audience, because physicists, engineers, and artists all approach topics from different angles. His research helps him relate classroom physics to the world we all experience every day, and provides guidance to undergraduates and graduates who are researching topics in simulation.

Selected publications:

  • “The 7Be(p,γ)8B Astrophysical S-Factor,” Nuclear Physics A 758 (2005): 685-688; with 10 others.
  • “New Determination of the 7Be(p,γ)8B S-Factor,” Nuclear Physics A 746 (2004): 210-214; with 10 others.
  • “Precise Measurement of the 7Be(p,γ)8B S-Factor.” Physical Review C 68, no. 6 (2003): 065803; with 10 others.
  • “A New Measurement of 7Be(p,γ)8B Cross Section and Its Astrophysical Meaning.” Nuclear Physics A 718 (2003): 113-116; with 10 others.
  • “7Be(p,γ)8B Astrophysical S Factor from Precision Cross Section Measurements.” Physical Review Letters 88, no. 4 (2002): 041101; with nine others.
  • “The Fabrication of Metallic 7Be Targets with a Small Diameter for 7Be(p,γ)8B Measurements.” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms 187, no. 2 (2002): 264-274; with eight others.
  • “A New Determination of the Astrophysical S-Factor for the 7Be(p,γ)8B Reaction from Direct Cross Section Measurements.” AIP Conference Proceedings 610, no. 1 (April 2, 2002): 461-465; with nine others.

Charles Duba, Ph.D.

Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Strategic Initiatives
Professor, Computer Science
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Professor, Physics

Charles Duba earned a BS in Physics from UC San Diego, and an MS and PhD in Physics from the University of Washington at the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics. His dissertation project was on electronics for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, where he helped prove the solution to the long-standing "Solar Neutrino Problem." (See "Solving the Mystery of the Missing Neutrinos.") He continues to work on neutrino detection experiments, currently with HALO, a long-term supernova neutrino detector at the SNO lab in Sudbury.

Dr. Duba’s research interests are in weak-interaction physics, physics instrumentation, physics simulation, augmented reality, and hardware design.

Selected Publications:

  • "HALO -The Helium and Lead Observatory for Supernova Neutrinos," Journal of Physics, Conference Series, Volume 136 (2008).
  • "Electronics for the Neutral Current Detection Array at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, 277 pp (2006).
  • "Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Neutral Current Detectors Signal Readout System," IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, v 51, n 5, pp 2227-30 (2004).
  • "Direct Evidence for Neutrino Flavor Transformation from Neutral-Current Interactions in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory," Physical Review Letters, Volume 89, Issue 1; 746 citations (2002).
  • "Measurement of the Rate of ne + d -> p + p + e- Interactions Produced by 8B Solar Neutrinos at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory," Physical Review Letters, Volume 87, Issue 7; 831 citations (2001).
  • "Low Background 3He Proportional Counter for Use in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory," IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, Volume 46, Issue 4 (1999).
  • "Solar Fusion Cross Sections," Reviews of Modern Physics, Volume 70, Issue 4; 437 citations (1998).

Abhay Shah, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Physics

After completing his bachelor's degree in Physics from Mumbai University (D. G. Ruparel College) in 2005, Dr. Abhay Shah moved to the U.S. and received his PhD in Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2011. As a graduate student, he worked on the self-force formalism that is used in modeling Extreme-Mass-Ratio Inspirals (EMRIs), two black holes inspiralling each other such that one of the black holes is roughly a hundred thousand times heavier than the other. (Such systems are located at the center of galaxies in which a stellar-mass compact object orbits a super-massive black hole. Gravitational waves emitted from EMRIs shed light on the strong-field spacetime structure of black holes, and help us understand the evolution of super-massive black holes.)

Upon completion of his PhD, Dr. Shah joined the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel as a postdoctoral fellow from 2011 to 2013. During this time, his interests evolved into an overlap between two formalisms used to study EMRIs: the self-force formalism and the post-Newtonian theory, two different approximations of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Along with his collaborators, he was able to extract very high-order linear-in-mass-ratio post-Newtonian corrections using analytical solutions, which allowed him to push the accuracy of his numerical calculations to arbitrary precision and extract analytical coefficients from numerics using experimental mathematics techniques.

From 2013 to 2017, Dr. Shah was a Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, UK. While there, he continued his work on EMRIs using the different formalisms as well as experimental mathematic techniques. He also developed an interest in black hole perturbation theory, which led him to work on finding new gauge-invariants and the equations they might satisfy.

Apart from research, Dr. Shah is passionate about teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He believes that physics, a basic requirement of all engineering and technical disciplines, is one of the many subjects that will churn students’ brain-wheels by demanding critical thinking and analytical reasoning, helping them in any career they pursue. He encourages students to be equal and active partners in the learning process. He serves as a referee for Physical Review D, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics, and in his spare time pursues his interest in machine learning.

Selected Publications:

  • “iResum: a new paradigm for resumming gravitational wave amplitudes”
    Alessandro Nagar, Abhay Shah
    Phys. Rev. D 94, 104017 (2016) [arXiv:1606.00207 [gr-qc]]
  • “Self-force as a cosmic censor in the Kerr overspinning problem”
    Marta Colleoni, Leor Barack, Abhay Shah, Maarten van de Meent
    Phys. Rev. D 92, 084044 (2015) [arXiv:1508.04031 [gr-qc]]
  • “Experimental mathematics meets gravitational self-force”
    Nathan Johnson-McDaniel, Abhay Shah, Bernard Whiting
    Phys. Rev. D 92, 044007 (2015) [arXiv:1503.02638 [gr-qc]]  (Editor’s suggestion)
  • “Raising and lowering operators for spin-weighted spheroidal harmonics”
    Abhay Shah, Bernard Whiting
    Gen Relativ Gravit (2016) 48:78 [arXiv:1503.02618 [gr-qc]]
  • “Gravitational Self-Force Correction to the Innermost Stable Circular Equatorial Orbit of a Kerr Black Hole”
    Soichiro Isoyama, Leor Barack, Sam Dolan, Alexandre Le Tiec, Hiroyuki Nakano, Abhay Shah, Takahiro Tanaka, Niels Warburton
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 161101 (2014) [arXiv:1404.6133 [gr-qc]]
  • “Gravitational-wave flux for a particle orbiting a Kerr black hole to 20th post-Newtonian order: a numerical approach”
    Abhay Shah
    Phys. Rev. D 90, 044025 (2014) [arXiv:1403.2697 [gr-qc]]
  • “Observables of a Test Mass along an Inclined Orbit in a Post-Newtonian-Approximated Kerr Spacetime Including the Linear and Quadratic Spin Terms”
    Steven Hergt, Abhay Shah, Gerhard Schaefer
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 021101 (2013) [arXiv:1303.6829 [gr-qc]]

Anand Thirumalai, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Physics

Anand Thirumalai earned his bachelor's degree in materials engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Roorkee, India. He then went on to earn a master's degree in materials engineering from the University of British Columbia (UBC). For his master's thesis he worked on designing and characterizing new-generation turbine blade materials, made of nickel-based superalloys.

After getting his master's degree, he switched fields completely to follow his passion and scientific curiosity — astrophysics. For his second master's degree at UBC, this time in astrophysics, he worked on studying the strongest magnetic fields in the known universe — those found in neutron stars — and computing the structure of atoms in such field strengths.

Later, his Ph.D. work looked at the end stages of stellar evolution. He developed a novel stellar wind model combining magnetohydrodynamics with particulate dust-dynamics and stellar rotation. His wind model is applicable to a range of stellar masses and stellar sub-types and presents a route for solving the so-called missing mass-loss mechanism problem in certain types of evolved stars.

Before coming to DigiPen, Dr. Thirumalai was also a School of Earth and Space Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. His research there involved studying winds of evolved stars as well as research in computational atomic structure. He has developed some of the fastest and most accurate atomic structure software for atoms in strong magnetic fields. He continues this research work in collaboration with researchers at UBC in Vancouver, as well as with researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway. His research these days focuses on making headway in the almost completely uncharted field of atomic and molecular structure in strong magnetic fields, as well simulations of star and planet formation. A large part of his current research focus involves harnessing the immense computing power of GPUs in astrophysical simulations.

Dr. Thirumalai teaches at all levels of the physics curriculum at DigiPen and believes in promoting diversity and inclusivity in the classroom, placing an emphasis on both teamwork as well as an interdisciplinary approach for solving modern problems using modern methods of solution.

Research website

Selected publications:

  • "Carbon atom in intense magnetic fields," Anand Thirumalai, Steven J. Desch and Patrick Young. Physical Review A, 90, 052501 (2014).
  • "Energy levels of light atoms in strong magnetic fields," Anand Thirumalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Invited review article in Advances in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, Vol. 63, Chapter 5, p. 323 (2014).
  • "Two-dimensional pseudospectral Hartree-Fock method for low-Z atoms in intense magnetic fields," Anand Thirumalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Physical Review A, 89, 052522 (2014).
  • "Is Mira and Magneto-Dusty Rotator?" Anand Thirmalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 430, p. 1359 (2013).
  • "The magnetised bellows of Betelgeuse," Anand Thirumalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 422, p. 1272 (2012).
  • "A hybrid steady-state magnetohydrodynamic dust-driven stellar wind model for AGB stars," Anand Thirumalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 409, p. 1669 (2010).
  • "Hydrogen and helium atoms in strong magnetic fields," Anand Thirumalai and Jeremy S. Heyl. Physical Review A, vol. 79, 012514 (2009).

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