Undergraduate Research

Interested in research opportunities as part of your undergraduate experience but don’t know where to start? The Wake Forest Physics Department is devoted to supporting physics as a participatory endeavor and encourages students to engage in research at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, and beyond). It is an important component to science education providing a first-hand experience of the scientific method. For undergraduates, this can take the form of URECA (Undergraduate REsearch and Creative Activities) summer programs, course credit (PHY 381), and in (some cases) a stipend. Students interested in summer research opportunities are encouraged to engage with potential faculty members by early January to meet the typical February deadlines of URECA funding applications.

The areas of research our faculty is involved in cover a wide gamut of topics. At the most fundamental level, these areas can be organized into two broad categories, Experimental and Theoretical. Read on for examples in these areas as well as lists of relevant faculty members to contact regarding potential projects. Below the examples, there is a list of helpful tips to help you find the right fit.


Does the thought of probing materials with ultrafast powerful lasers get you excited? The thought of DNA mutations make your mind race? Maybe you would like to build a quantum computer or create transistors. Study blood with therapeutic applications to improve human health. Perhaps use an Atomic Force Microscope to learn mechanical properties of blood clots. If you like to get your hands dirty, there are many exciting opportunities for undergraduates to be involved in the experimental process in Biophysics, Condensed Matter, Materials, Nanotechnology, Engineering, or Medical Physics.

Theoretical and Computational

Do you love pushing the limits of a computer? Would the thought of running code on a supercomputer excite you? Are you the person everyone asks for advice or help when it comes to computers and technology? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you would enjoy the world of theoretical and computational physics. Many research groups use the WFU DEAC supercomputing cluster or other high powered machines to model physical systems with the aim of studying advanced materials, complex astronomical questions or biological molecules. Push the development of solid state batteries, probe gravitational waves and black holes, contribute to cancer drug discovery, uncover quantum magnets, or even find materials capable of storing hydrogen. Expanding our knowledge of the natural world takes deep thought and careful mathematical analysis. Find rewarding work and discovery in theoretical physics.

  • Paul Anderson
    • Gravity, Quantum Field Theory, Black Holes, Cosmology
  • Eric Carlson
    • Fields: Particle physics, Astrophysics
  • Sam Cho
    • Computational biophysics, Protein and RNA folding, Biomolecular assembly, Molecular machines, virtual drug screening, GPU programming
  • Greg Cook
    • Black-Hole Collisions, Gravitational Waves, Numerical Relativity
  • Natalie Holzwarth
    • Materials simulation, All-solid-state battery materials, Simulation software development
  • Fred Salsbury
    • Biophysics, Statistical Methods, Cancer, Drug Discovery
  • Timo Thonhauser
    • Theoretical/Computational Condensed Matter, Materials Science
  • Stephen Winter

How to choose a research group:

  • Decide whether you prefer theoretical, computational or experimental physics
  • Pick a subject area that interests you
    • biophysics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics
  • Talk to several faculty to help decide what fits you best
  • It is possible to work with several groups during your tenure at WFU; stick with one group for at least one year