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James Kakalios


PAN 352 (office), 624-9856/626-7479
PAN 381 (lab)
kakalios @ • http://www.kakalios.comcurriculum vitae


Upon joining the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota in 1988, I have built up a research program in experimental condensed matter physics, with particular emphasis on complex and disordered systems. My current research ranges from the Nano to the Neuro, with active studies of the optical and electronic properties of hydrogenated amorphous silicon thin films containing nanocrystalline inclusions in addition to investigations of voltage fluctuations recorded from the brains of awake, behaving rats. The former project seeks to elucidate the properties of these mixed phase materials in order to optimize their characteristics for solar cell applications, while the neuroscience program has led to the identification of a coherent oscillation in the striatum which may have implications for our understanding of Parkinson's Disease.

In addition to my research efforts, I have developed a popular Freshman Seminar titled: Everything I Know About Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books, which led to my writing a popular science book THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES, published by Gotham Books in 2005. This book has been translated into German, Spanish, Italian and Korean, and a SPECTACULAR SECOND EDITION was published in 2009. My second book, THE AMAZING STORY OF QUANTUM MECHANICS, was published by Gotham Books in October 2010.

McKnight Land Grant Professor, University of Minnesota, 1989 – 1992, National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator, 1990 – 1995, Institute of Technology Student Board – School of Physics and Astronomy Professor of the Year, 2003, Charles E. Bowers Faculty Teaching Award, 2003 Director of Graduate Studies, School of Physics and Astronomy, 2001-04; Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Physics and Astronomy, 2007-2010, Taylor Distinguished Professor, 2008 - .

Featured in a professional television advertising campaign promoting the University of Minnesota. (See: Explained physics concepts as they relate to events in the news on NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Early Show, WCCO evening news. Developed with Prof. C. Cattell and 3 high school teachers in 1998 the 2nd lecture demonstration team “Physics Force – The Next Generation”. Public shows have been performed on and off campus including the Convergence Science Fiction Convention, Upward Bound Program, Science Fairs, and area schools. Science consultant for the 2009 Warner Bros. film WATCHMEN. My video THE SCIENCE OF WATCHMEN has received over 1.6 million views since being posted on in Feb. 2009, and won an Upper Midwest Regional EMMY Award in 2009 and was nominated for a WEBBY award in 2010. NASA, Microgravity Review Panel, Summer, 1999, Summer 2000, Spring 2001, Winter 2002, NSF - CAREER Grant Review Panel, Fall 2001, NSF NER Grant Review Panel, Winter 2005, NSF NIRT Grant Review Panel, Winter 2006. Member: American Physical Society, Materials Research Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi.

Summary of Interests
Experimental Condensed Matter: Amorphous Semiconductors, Fluctuation Phenomena in Neurological Systems, Segregation in Granular Media [Research Web Page]

About My Work

The primary goal of my research is the elucidation of the properties of disordered systems. Experimental investigations include studies of the electronic and optical properties of amorphous semiconductors, segregation phenomena in granular media, and fluctuation phenomena in neurological systems.

Thin films of hydrogenated amorphous silicon containing crystalline silicon nanoparticles are synthesized using a plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition system at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with Prof. Uwe Kortshagen in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering. Techniques developed to study non-Gaussian fluctuations in amorphous silicon have been applied to local field potentials recorded from awake, behaving rats in Prof. A. David Redish's laboratory in the Dept. of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota.

Advisees and Collaborators

Kent Bodurtha, Research Assistant
Mengqun Li, Teaching Assistant
Zvie Razieli, Research Assistant

Selected Publications

C. Anderson, C. Blackwell, J. Deneen, C. B. Carter, J. Kakalios and U. Kortshagen, “Dual-Chamber Plasma Co-Deposition of Nanoparticles in Amorphous Silicon Thin Films,”, Materials Research Society Symposia Proceedings (Materials Research Society, Pittsburgh, PA)(2006)

C. Blackwell, C. Anderson, J. Deneen, C. B. Carter, U. Kortshagen and J. Kakalios,, “Influence of Thermophoresis Effects During Deposition of Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Thin Films,”, Materials Research Society Symposia Proceedings (Materials Research Society, Pittsburgh, PA)(2006)

B. Masimore, N. C. Schmitzer-Torbet, J. Kakalios and A. D. Redish, “Transient Striatal  Local Field Potentials Signal Movement Initiation in Rats,”, NeuroReport (2005)

Y. Adjallah, C. Anderson, U. Kortshagen and J. Kakalios,, “Structural and Electronic Properties of Dual Plasma Codeposited Mixed-Phase Amorphous/Nanocrystalline Thin Films”, J. Appl. Phys (2010)

C. E. Parman, N. E. Israeloff and J. Kakalios, Conductance Noise Power Fluctuations in Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon, Phys. Rev. Lett. 69, 1097 (1992)

B. Masimore, J. Kakalios and A. David Redish, Measuring Fundamental Frequencies in Local Field Potentials, J. Neuroscience Methods 138, 97 (2004)

S. Thompson, C. R. Perrey, C. B. Carter, T. J. Belich, J. Kakalios and U. Kortshagen, Experimental Investigations into the Formation of Nanoparticles in a/nc-Si:H Thin Films, J. Appl. Phys. 97, 34,310 (2005)

J. Kakalios, Granular Physics or Nonlinear Dynamics in a Sandbox, Resource Letter GP-1, American Journal of Physics 73, 8 (2005)


Ph.D. Physics, University of Chicago, 1985.
M.S. Physics, University of Chicago, 1982.
B.S. summa cum laude, City College of New York, 1979.