Physics & Astronomy Department



Brian C. Utter


Department of Physics and Astronomy

MSC 4502 / 901 Carrier Drive, Harrisonburg VA 22807

(540) 568-4665



Associate Professor of Physics, James Madison University, 2010 - present

Visiting Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen, Germany, 2012 - 2013

Assistant Professor of Physics, James Madison University, 2004 - 2010


Postdoctoral Research Associate, Duke University, 2001-2004

  In collaboration with Robert P. Behringer



PhD, Cornell Univerity (2001)

  Advisor: Eberhard Bodenschatz

  Thesis: Low Anisotropy Growth in Directional Solidification

MS, Cornell Univerity (1998)

BS, Rutgers University (1995)


Research Interests

Experimental granular and multiphase flow, nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, physics pedagogy

— Recent experiments focus on the jamming transition in dense granular flow, photelastic force measurements and particle tracking in 2D granular systems, effects of surface chemistry on flows of particle-fluid suspensions, simulations of nonlinear dynamical systems


Courses Taught

Physics, Chemistry, and the Human Experience, Physical Nature of Light and Sound, Introductory Physics Lab, University Physics II, University Physics III, Data Acquisition & Analytical Tech. in Physics, Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics, Computer Applications in Physics, Solid State Physics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, Advanced Physics Lab



— PI, PhysTEC (Physics Teacher Education Coalition) Proposal for a PhysTEC Comprehensive Site at James Madison University (co-PIs: Scott Paulson, David Slykhuis, David Daniel, Andy Jackson, Mark Mattson), 2013-16.

— PI, NSF Major Research Instrumentation Acquisition of a Rheometer for Undergraduate Materials Research(co-PIs: Kevin Caran, Klebert Feitosa, and Kyle Gipson), 2012-15.

— PI, NSF CBET Flow and Rheology of Particle-Fluid Suspensions with Variable Hydrophobicity, 2011-14.

— PI, Research Corporation Effect of Imposed Force Fluctuations on the Jamming Transition in Granular Materials, 2007-11.

— PI, JMU Faculty Assistance Grant Study of the force response of granular materials under imposed vibrations , 2006.



For complete list: Publications Page.


B. Utter, Photoelastic Materials, Chapter in Experimental and Computational Techniques in Soft Condensed Matter Physics (Cambridge University Press, 2010).


B. Utter and R.P. Behringer, Experimental measures of affine and nonaffine deformation in granular shear, Physical Review Letters, 100, 208302 (2008).


B. Utter, R. Ragnarsson, and E. Bodenschatz, An experimental apparatus and sample preparation for directional solidification, Review of Scientific Instruments, 76, 013906 (2004).


B. Utter and R.P. Behringer, Self-diffusion in dense granular shear flows, Physical Review E, 69,031308 (2004).


B. Utter, R. Ragnarsson, and E. Bodenschatz, Alternating tip splitting in directional solidification, Physical Review Letters, 86, 4604 (2001).



— American Physical Society, member Task Force on Ethics Education member (2005-7), Elected as Member-at-Large, Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (2001-2003). Member, US Advisory Committee for the Canadian, American, and Mexican (CAM) First Graduate Student Conference (2003)

— Reviewer for National Science Foundation, ACS Petroleum Research Fund, Physical Review Letters, Physical Review E, Granular Matter, Physica D, SIAM Review, Granular Matter, and National Conference on Undergraduate Research

— AP Physics Reader (2009-13), question writer, Physics I & II (2012)

— Madison Career Fellow, Mid-Career Faculty Issues (2012), JMU Assessment Fellow (2011), JMU STEM Fellow (2010)

— STEM Sell, WXJM Radio Show (30 episodes, 2010-11)

— Shenandoah Valley Regional Science Fair, Prize Coordinator (2010-12), Juror (2007, 2009), USA Young Physicists Tournament (2009-10) juror, First Lego League Tournament (2009-10) juror

— Standard Setting Committee, American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (2007)