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James Kakalios

PAN 352 (office), 624-9856
PAN 381 (lab), 626-7479
kakalios @ • http://www.physicsofsuperheroes.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 and thin film transistors, 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, Chinese 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.

Honors: 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 - present, Fellow - AAAS (2013), 2014 AAAS Award for Public Engagement with Science, Fellow - APS (2015).

Featured in a professional television advertising campaign promoting the University of Minnesota. 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. I give an average of 15 public lectures a year on THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES, from venues ranging from local area high schools to the 92nd St. Y, the Library of Congress to the San Diego ComicCon.

Science consultant as part of the National Academy of Science's Science and Entertainment Exchange program for the 2009 Warner Bros. film WATCHMEN. My video THE SCIENCE OF WATCHMEN ( has received over 1.8 million views since being posted on in Feb. 2009, won an Upper Midwest Regional EMMY Award in 2009 and was nominated for a national WEBBY award in 2010. Science consultant for the Sony 2012 film The Amazing Spider-Man, which led to my video explaining the physics of the Gompertz Equation ( NASA, Microgravity Review Panel, Summer, 1999, Summer 2000, Spring 2001, Winter 2002, NSF - CAREER Grant Review Panel, 2001, NSF NER Grant Review Panel, 2005, NSF NIRT Grant Review Panel, 2006. Member: American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow), American Physical Society (Fellow), American Association of Physics Teachers, 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 unique dual-chamber plasma enhanced chemical vapor co-deposition system at the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with Prof. Uwe Kortshagen in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering.

A measure of the power of this materials synthesis process is the fabrication of hydrogenated amorphous silicon in which nanocrystalline germanium inclusions are embedded. As the nc-Ge content is increased, we observe a striking transition from n-type to p-type conduction, as reflected in measurements of the Seebeck coefficient.

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.

Selected Publications

K. Bodurtha and J. Kakalios, Thermopower of Nanocrystalline Germanium/Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon Composite Thin Films, J. of Appl, Physics (2013) [download Thermopower-JApplPhys-2013.pdf]

L. R. Wienkes, C. Blackwell, T. Hutchinson and J. Kakalios, Conduction Mechanisms in Doped Mixed-Phase Hydrogenated Amorphous/Nanocrystalline Silicon Thin Films", J. Appl. Phys. (2013) [download Wienkes-JApplPhys-2013.pdf]

B. Masimore, N. C. Schmitzer-Torbet, J. Kakalios and A. D. Redish, Transient Striatal (gamma) Local Field Potentials Signal Movement Initiation in Rats, NeuroReport (2005) [download Masimore-NeuroReport.pdf]

Y. Adjallah, C. Anderson, U. Kortshagen and J. Kakalios,, Structural and Electronic Properties of Dual Plasma Co-Deposited Mixed-Phase Amorphous/Nanocrystalline Thin Films”, J. Appl. Phys (2010) [download Adjallah-JApplPhys-2010.pdf]

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

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) [download THompson-JApplPhys-2005.pdf]

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

K. M. Hill, A. Caprihan and J. Kakalios, Bulk Segreagtion in Rotated Granular Material Measured by Magnetic Resonance Imaging", Phys. Rev. Lett. (1997) [download axialPRL.pdf]

Lisa M. Lust and J. Kakalios, Dynamical Percolation Model of Conductance Fluctuations in Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon, Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 2129 (1995) [download Percolation PRL.pdf]

C. E. Parman, N. E. Israeloff and J. Kakalios, Conductance Noise Power Fluctuations in Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon, Phys. Rev. Lett. 69, 1097 (1992) [download PhysRevLett.69.1097.pdf]


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.