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Research Activities

Physics


Research is conducted in a variety of areas including: medical physics, subatomic physics, solid state physics, theoretical physics, and physics education. The groups working in medical, subatomic, solid state, and theoretical physics receive funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Students majoring in physics are encouraged to participate in these research activities through the offer of summer employment with the research groups.

Brief descriptions of current research areas are given below.


WINNIPEG INSTITUTE FOR THEORETICAL PHYSICS

The Winnipeg Institute for Theoretical Physics is a formal Institute involving the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. It was created to support theoretical physics research in Manitoba. It has carried out this mandate by encouraging collaboration between members of the Institute, by financially supporting expert seminars in the research areas of concern, and by financially supporting the long term visits of internationally respected scientists to the Institute so as to facilitate collaboration of these scientists with Institute members. The thirteen permanent members of this Institute include all three theorists in the Physics Department at the University of Winnipeg, as well as eight theorists from the University of Manitoba and two from Brandon University. More information about the Institute and its members can be obtained from its homepage.

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RESEARCH AREAS


MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI):

Melanie Martin

As a physicist specializing in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), I am developing a non-invasive, empirical method to diagnose Alzheimer's Disease and other central nervous systems disorders in their earliest stages. I am also using MRI to follow the effectiveness of treatment regimes over the course of time.

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Chris Bidinosti

My current research interests centre on techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed in very low magnetic fields. Considerable research effort is put toward developing the technology needed for this task, as well as toward an improved understanding of the fundamental physics associated with NMR/MRI in the low field limit.

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SUBATOMIC PHYSICS:

More information about the subatomic group can be found at their homepage.

Jeff Martin

In nature, four fundamental forces exist: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The weak force is the only force which does not look the same when viewed in a mirror. The violation of mirror symmetry is called "parity violation". The weak and electromagnetic forces have been combined together (or "unified") in electroweak theory. The strong force has been unified with electroweak theory in what is known as the standard model of particle physics. Precise measurements of parity violation at low energies yield information on the weak force. This might inform us of physics beyond the standard model, and might even shed light on how to unify all the forces into one theory. It is the goal of my research to perform low-energy measurements of parity violation in order to possibly make new discoveries of physics beyond the standard model. A second goal is to use the weak force to study the strong force, in particular to study how the strong force between quarks in protons and neutrons contributes to their structure.

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Blair Jamieson

My main interests are in experimental subatomic physics, statistically sound precision measurements, fundamental symmetries and tests of the standard model. I am also interested in developing new detectors, and have worked on the large volume Time Projection Chambers (TPC)s for the near detector of T2K. My research program is working toward further understanding the properties of fundamental particles. In particular I am involved in neutrino oscillation studies with the Tokai to Kamioka experiment in Japan, and studies of the neutron electric dipole moment using ultra cold neutrons.

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THEORETICAL PHYSICS:

Field theories provide a theoretical framework for understanding a wide range of physical phenomena, including nuclear and subatomic physics, gravitation, early universe cosmology and some condensed matter systems. The theory group at the University of Winnipeg applies field theoretic techniques to study a variety of systems, especially those where the effects of temperature, density and/or space-time curvature are important. This research is normally done with the help of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and Summer Undergraduates. In addition the group has the benefit of a number of collaborators from countries all over the world, including France, Norway, Austria and Russia. More information about the Theory Group can be found at: http://theory.uwinnipeg.ca

Specific subjects of current interest are described below for individual faculty:

Gabor Kunstatter:

At the moment my research concentrates on two specific areas: the quantum mechanical properties of black holes, and quantum computation.
One of the most important problems in theoretical physics today concerns the microscopic source of black hole entropy. This problem is being addressed using simplified, highly symmetrical models, such as spherically symmetric higher dimensional gravity.
The prospect of building quantum computers, whose basic operations are based on the rules of quantum mechanics, gives rise to many important, fundamental questions. We are currently investigating the relationship between entanglement and increased computational efficiency in the context of the adiabatic quantum search algorithm.

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Dwight Vincent:

The interface between quantum mechanics, described in terms of the Many-Worlds Interpretation, and gravitation is studied through the use of higher-dimensional solutions of the Einstein gravitational field equations. These solutions give rise to interesting consequences with regard to the roles that dimensions play in physics, and the overall meaning of the fundamental constants of nature.

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Andrew Frey:

My main research interest is in the intersection of cosmology (the history and composition of the universe) with high energy physics (particle physics and string theory). In my research, I answer questions about dark energy, dark matter, inflation, and the Big Bang. In this work, I use tools from particle physics, string theory, and general relativity; as I am a theoretical physicist, that involves analytical (paper and pencil) as well as numerical calculations.

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INFECTIOUS DISEASES:

Murray Alexander:

Infectious diseases continue to be the single largest cause of mortality and socioeconomic disadvantages. Control of infectious diseases is therefore a major concern of public health. An effective approach to studying an infectious disease is to encapsulate the population-level ('macrodynamics') and/or cellular-level ('microdynamics') processes as a mathematical model. This offers a viable alternative to expensive and time-consuming clinical testing, and can predict rich dynamical behavior, which can be analyzed using techniques from dynamical systems and bifurcation theory. Furthermore, models provide valuable guidelines for public health strategies. The growing urgency to address public health strategies against pandemics has focused our efforts towards detailed modeling of immunological and social factors using network-based models (the theory for which was founded in Statistical Mechanics, and the field is well-populated by physicists) that could play crucial roles in spreading disease, particularly in the case of pandemic influenza. In addition, we are developing reliable numerical and analytical tools that have proved useful in formulating more complex and sophisticated models of infectious diseases, and ensuring the validity of numerical and computational implementations of these increasingly complex models.

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MEDICAL IMAGING:

Murray Alexander:

A class of methods, based on fast numerical implementations of variational principles combined with level set methods, has been developed and applied to image segmentation, image registration, and (in combination with wavelets) to sparse representations of signals (images, spectra, time series, etc.). For image segmentation, the zero level set of a computable level set function is used to segment regions in an image, so that different anatomical structures can be delineated and identified for example, gray and white matter in the brain, or tumours. Image registration is an automated process of aligning images of the same subject, acquired with one or more different image scanners (for example, magnetic resonance, ultrasound, or infrared) at the same or different times. A variational formulation of the principle of maximizing the mutual information has been developed to correct nonlinear distortions in pairs of images between different image modalities. Biomedical data always contains noise and artifacts arising from physiological or instrumental sources. We have developed techniques for separating noise and artifacts from the true underlying biomedical signal. Wavelets provide a powerful method for this type of analysis. The goals of this approach are dimension reduction, feature selection/extraction, and sparse representation of the data.

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Esmat Elhami:

My research involves application of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging in pre-clinical studies, where animal models of diseases are studied. The focus of my research is accurate quantification of PET images for application to in-vivo studies, e.g., cell tracking in stem cell therapy of a rat model of congestive heart failure. My goal is to develop multimodality imaging using PET and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging techniques. PET-MR imaging provides both functional and anatomical information and can be reliably applied to in-vivo studies and better assessment of the results, e.g., the clinical outcome of stem cell therapy

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PHYSICS EDUCATION:

Stephen Klassen:

Research in physics education has recently emerged as a field of scholarly inquiry by physicists. Their work is greatly expanding our knowledge of how students learn physics and it has the potential for making a contribution to significant improvements in instruction. A major approach in instructional enhancement is the integration of history of science into curriculum and instruction. To assist in achieving these purposes, an inter-university research group, the History and Philosophy of Science in Science Education Research Group was formed, comprised of faculty from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. The objective of this research group is to develop science stories, historical case studies, large context problems, scientific narratives, and other contexts to help science teaching become more effective. This group also maintains strong links with research in education in other sciences.

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