From Subatomic to Galactic Scales:
Explore fascinating science and cutting-edge research topics in physics and astronomy!

An educational event series designed specially for high school students and teachers!
Parents will enjoy it, too!


For the third year running, the Physics and Astronomy Department in collaboration with the Office of Outreach & Engagement at James Madison University cordially invite high-school students and science teachers to take part in an engaging enrichment program developed in a sequence of 6 easy-to-follow scientific exploration events.

This site is © Copyright Adriana Banu, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last modified on March 4, 2013.

The SMP events will be held on the James Madison University campus in the Bioscience Building, room 1007, except for the last event on March 2, which will be held in the Miller Hall, room 1101. The Bioscience Building is located at 951 Carrier Drive while Miller Hall is located at 95 E. Grace Street, Harrisonburg, VA. 

Parking: SMP participants and parents/guardians may park for free in Lot D2 (across the Bioscience Building) for the first 5 events, and in  Lot N (across Grace Street from Miller Hall) for the closing event on March 2.  No parking tags needed.

For any questions about the SMP program, please contact Dr. Adriana Banu ( or 540 568 8940). All other questions related to registration, college credit, CEUs etc. should be addressed to JMU Outreach & Engagement ( or 540 568 4253).

To be awarded a final certificate, you will need to complete at least 4 out of 6 events. Regular attendance is highly recommended!

The quiz sessions will be interactive, fast-pasted competions using electronic clickers to
buzz in with a response. You will have the chance to win prizes and review what you may have learned at the end of each Saturday program.

For additional fees, high-school students (juniors/seniors) may earn a college credit and teachers may earn CEUs. For details, please contact JMU Outreach & Engagement at 540 658 4253

February 16: Understanding the Giant Seebeck Coefficient of MnO2
Dr. Costel Constantin

February 23: Tools of Particle PhysicsDr. Kevin Giovanetti 

March 2: Interacting Binary Stars, Dr. Geary Albright

 January 26: Microfabrication - Making Really, Really Teeny Stuff,
                  Dr. Christopher Hughes

February 2: Investigating the Basic Building Blocks of Matter using
                    Electromagnetic Probes at Jefferson Lab
Dr. Ioana Niculescu

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious". ~ Albert Einstein

What about yourself? Are you curious enough about the amazing facets of modern science and its technological implications in every-day life?



February 9: The Many Lives of GalaxiesDr. Anca Constantin

 Saturday Morning Physics (SMP) events will consists
of lectures, discussions, prizes, quizzes
 and hands-on experiments.

 The format is as follows:

 09:15 - 09:30 am      Registration and Welcome
 09:30 - 10:30 am      Lecture (45' talk and 15' Q&A session)
 10:30 - 11:00 am      Coffee Break
 11:00 - 11:30 am      Quiz (including prizes)
 11:30 - 12:00 pm      Tours of the Department Research Labs/Hands-on Activities


What are the fundamental building blocks of nature? How are they put together to obtain the world we see around us? What tools do physicists use to investigate the structure of matter?

This lecture will focus on the exciting fields of particle and nuclear physics, especially on the cutting edge program developed at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia. It will also highlight the contributions to this program made by a group of faculty and students from James Madison University.

Due to the ever increasing energy demand and growing global concern over the environmental impact of carbon dioxide emissions, there is a urging need to seek solutions to transit from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Only 30% of the energy of the energy we use everyday is converted into useful work and the remaining 70% is wasted as dissipated heat during energy conversion, transportation and storage. This giant loss is itself a source of recyclable energy that can be renewed into useful energy.

In this lecture we address our research on manganese oxide nanoparticles that can directly convert wasted heat into electricity.

To verify the predictions made by theorists trying to untangle the basic ideas that govern the behavior of matter and energy in our world, experimental physicists probe the interaction of particles. These experiments run the gamut in terms of energy and scale. Giant detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) examine interactions that take place at the limits of what laboratories can reach, physicists gather information from nature's giant energy sources such as Black Holes and smaller scale experiments search for rare events such as proton decay with different types of equipment.

To gain some insight, we will examine in this lecture techniques used to detect particles in a typical particle physics experiment. The application of these techniques will then be highlited with two examples: a high precison measurement (Muon Lifetime), both approach as well as implications, and a high energy measuremnt (LHC and the Higgs Boson) as perhaps the final step in establishing the Standard Model.

This program is brought to you in part by a significant contribution from Jeffrey E. Tickle, JMU Class of 1990.

Galaxies, just like the one we live in, the Milky Way, are collections of stars and gas. They often show huge amounts of energy coming from their central regions. We believe this is caused by matter falling onto a super-massive black hole. Famous examples are powerful quasars, which are mostly seen at large look-back times. There is now increasing evidence that this same phenomenon may be happening at a low level in a large fraction of local galaxies.

This lecture will present ground- and space-based observations that bear to our understanding of the central engine of these cosmic objects from large cosmological distances and from nearby, and discuss the implications for the formation and evolution of galaxies in universe. 

About half of the stars in the Universe come as binary stars. These stars can interact with one another when one star evolves and transfers matter onto its companion star. This interaction results in a wide variety of interesting astronomical onjects depending on the mass gainer in the system. If the mass gainer is a black hole the system will be an X-ray Binary. When the mass gainer is a white dwarf, the system can be a Type Ia supernova, nova or cataclysmic variable. If mass is being transferred onto a main sequence star the result is an Algol-type binary.

The Algos are the best astrophysical laboratories for studying the mass transfer process and will be the focus of this Saturday Morning Physics Lecture.

For the last half century or more, many aspects of our day-to-day lives have been completely changed by technologies that arise from our ability to readily manufacture structures at scales of a millionth of a meter less. The most significant developments have been in the area of integrated circuits and electronics, but we are now at a point where the skills and instrumentation we have developed for this will enable impacts in other areas. One of these is the growing field of microfluidics.

We will discuss the ongoing research in microfluidics at JMU and possible uses for these new technologies. We will also talk about the ways in which even the interactions of chemicals at the molecular level can have significant effects on the overall macroscopic properties of a material such as our recent discoveries on the interaction of gold thin films with polymer surfaces.

Please add your name to this online form to join the wait list and to be notified by e-mail when next SMP edition's dates are announced. Thank You!