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About Jeff

          Welcome to my little corner of the web.  Here you'll find some information about my professional and personal interests.  If you would like to see more of my HTML handiwork, check out the LMU physics department web site.  Let's see...  I was a Wahoo, having received his B.S. from The University of Virginia a.k.a. Mr. Jefferson's University. Then I left the friendly confines of central Virginia in 1993 and traveled west to attend graduate school in SoCal. There I became an Anteater (grad student variety) at the University of California at Irvine. Upon receiving my M.S. in 1996 and my Ph.D. in 1999, I accepted a position at DePauw University in Indiana. After enduring several cold winters I returned to California and begin teaching at LMU in 2001.  If you would like to see a more formal version of my educational and professional history, I encourage you to look at my curriculum vitae.
          My research interests span the range of densities and temperatures, from liquid helium near absolute zero to plasma fusion.  My Ph.D. research focussed on the properties of helium films on alkali metals.  These systems allowed the study of basic phase transitions and statistical mechanics.  Helium films were typically no more than two atoms thick and often averaged less than one atom in thickness.  In this regime, the interaction of the prewetting phase with the superfluid phase transition could be studied.
          The prewetting transition is a transition associated with the first order wetting transition.  This is where a film goes from being non-wet (beading up on a surface, much like water on a waxed car) to wet (where a thin film covers the entire surface, similar to water on an unwaxed surface).  These phases are common in our everyday lives, but what makes the helium- alkali metal system so special is its simplicity, cleanliness and ability to alter thermodynamic variables inducing a transition.  My research focussed on how different surfaces would produce different wetting- superfluid phase diagrams, exploring regimes never investigated before.  For those interested in this work as well as more low temperature research, you might want to check out the Low Temperature Materials Laboratory at UCI.
          As was mentioned before I enjoys dabbling in many areas of physics.  I began my graduate career by analyzing data from the DIII-D tokamak.  There I helped to test new models of neutron emission from the plasma fusion reactor.  Currently, I'm studying the behavior of various soft condensed matter systems- granular materials, fluids, and more thin film systems.  Students interested in learning more about current research activities are encouraged to contact me, as I'm always eager to chat about physics.
          Like all of the other members of the Physics Department, I'm active in improving the quality of learning.  Two of my main pedagogical interests are improving student's problem solving skills and connecting physics and science to other aspects of life. The guiding principle is that a citizen of the 21st century will be better off if they understand some of the science and technology around them and are able to think independently. A student who is able to solve problems, not just the textbook variety, will be a scholar who will succeed in school and in the work force after graduation.
          One of my more unusual courses was a seminar I taught at DePauw entitled- The Science of Art. In this course, students explored the science involved in music, photography, painting, dance, architecture, and many other fields. But, equally important is the art of science that was investigated- can an equations such as E=mc2 be considered beautiful? What influences do beauty and symmetry have on the scientist? What is creativity's role in the creation of art as well as the discovery of science? The seminar included both artistic and scientific projects.
          On the lighter side... I enjoy photography (part of the reason for the art & science interest), racquetball, volleyball, biking, and hiking.  Any time students are interested in talking about Mark McGuire, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Stan Musial and the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals, they are encouraged to stop by 235 Julian.  The same holds true for discussions about Chris Pronger, Pavol Demitra and the St. Louis Blues
 


 

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jphillips@lmu.edu
January 15, 2002