Research - Physics & Astronomy | Benedictine College

Research - Physics & Astronomy


Developing Next-Gen Solar Power Technologies

Shcherbatyuk Group

The Shcherbatyuk Group is currently investigating next-gen Luminescent Solar Concetrators (LSCs) - devices used for concentrating solar energy. LSCs consist of a transparent (glass or polymer) matrix doped with luminescent species (LS) that absorb solar radiation and then re-emit it at longer wavelengths. Originally proposed in the late 1970s, these devices saw limited development due to fast photo-degradation of luminescent dyes used as luminescent species. In the last 35 years the development of stable dyes, semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) and perovskite materials have revived interest in these devices. While LSCs are unlikely to replace conventional PV cells for energy harvesting, they can be used in areas where partial light transmission is desired – such as windows or tinted blinds.

Ultrafast Laser Physics

Sayler Group

Research in the Sayler Group focuses on controlling atomic and molecular reactions with intense ultra-short laser pulses as well as creating and characterizing novel laser sources.


Observations of RV Tauri Stars

Maderak Group

RV Tauri stars are radially pulsating, late spectral type variables that are interpreted as representing the brief post-Asymptotic Giant Branch / pre-Planetary Nebula phase of low mass stars. Their pulsational periods range from 30 to 150 days, and their defining characteristic is a double-peaked light curve, with alternating deep and shallow minima. Despite decades of research (including by Benedictine Professor Emeritus Dr. Scott Baird), the exact cause of the alternating minima is not yet fully understood. Possibilities include having resonances between different pulsational modes, with multiple atmospheric layers in motion, or pulsational variation combined with periodic obscuration by a surrounding dust disk. A better understanding of these stars could give us insight into the late stages of stellar evolution.

Molecular Astrophysics

Shingledecker Group

Many of the most spectacular images taken using the Hubble Space Telescope have been of a type of interstellar region known as a molecular cloud. These regions are interesting, in part, because they are the “nurseries” where stars and planets are born. Molecular astrophysics (astrochemistry) is the study of the molecules that comprise these regions. These molecules are interesting, in part, because they represent the best way to understand what these clouds are like when we observe them, what happened to them eons ago, and what the might look like eons into the future. The Shingledecker group is focused on answering the questions “Which molecules comprise interstellar nebulae?”, “How did they form?”, and “What do they tell us about the past, present, and future of star- and planet-forming regions?”