My primary research background and interest is in experimental high-energy physics. It all began for me in 7th grade in Lahore, Pakistan, when my science teacher, who was actually from the United States, explained how the atom worked. It fascinated me because it’s the most fundamental thing out there. We are made of atoms.
If every atom has electrons, neutrons and protons, how is it that there are so many different things around us? What are we made of? How deep can we dig into it for answers?
This is the primary goal of particle physics research. To help with this quest, I have been doing research with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and CERN (derived from French Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire, or European Council for Nuclear Research) over the past 15 years. I am currently in the process of moving form the ATLAS experimental collaboration to the CMS collaboration at CERN.
In the last couple of years, I have also been actively involved with physics education research at Susquehanna University. In collaboration with the Dr. Valerie Allison in the Education Department at Susquehanna University, we submitted two papers that we expect to present at to conferences next year. This venue has allowed me to combine my two passions, teaching and research, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this new and burgeoning field of research.
My research focus is in atomic and molecular laser spectroscopy. I study the interactions between high-lying electronic states of alkali diatomic molecules. Spin-orbit and nonadiabatic interactions result in molecular states described by mixed component wavefunctions. By fitting theoretical simulations to experimental bound-free resolved fluorescence spectra, sensitive information about these interactions can be obtained.
Dynamic collision processes are also studied. When a molecule experiences an inelastic collision with a nearby atom, population and orientation is transferred between nearby energy levels. A combination of laser induced fluorescence and polarization spectroscopy can be used to determine the rates of such processes and how they are affected by the initial conditions and types of atoms taking part in the collisions.
My current research focus is the characterization of exoplanets, or planets that orbits stars that are not the sun. I use Bayesian data analysis methods to test theoretical models of exoplanets to determine which models best describe exoplanets and the properties of exoplanets, such as their radii and temperature. Doing so requires the use of exoplanet light curves, which plots amount of light versus time, from a star system. If the exoplanet’s orbit is aligned correctly, we will be able to infer its presence when it passes Infront of its host star, blocking some of its light and resulting in a dip in the light curve.
Currently, I am researching different methods to describe the temperature distribution of exoplanetary atmospheres and surfaces using these light curves. In addition, I am working to refine our understanding of the reflected light of exoplanets by carefully considering the incident radiation from the host star. I have found that some exoplanets experience up to about 70% illumination! Yet, most researchers account for only 50% illumination, which can lead to inaccurate estimates of albedo, radius, temperature, and climate models.