RalphRalph (‘Rayf’) Shiell

Associate Professor in Physics,
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Trent University,
1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough,
Ontario, K9L 0G2, Canada

Phone: 1-705-748-1011 x7023/7025
Fax: 1-705-748-1652
Email: ralphshiell@trentu.ca
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Research, Teaching and General Physics Home Page


Research information

This semester's teaching

Physics in general

Other information

Research Information

Stark Effect

Classical trajectory of a Rydberg
electron in an electric field

We investigate the behaviour of quantum systems using a variety of laser light sources. The particular type of system we are interested in (a heavy Rydberg system) is composed of a positively-charged and negatively-charged atom (a cation and anion) orbiting about their centre of mass with a separation 10,000 times greater than is normally found between atoms in typical molecules. This makes them the largest diatomic molecules on the planet!

Such a system is intermediate between the very small (explained by quantum mechanics) and the macroscopic (usually explained by classical mechanics). By applying external electric and magnetic fields we can interrogate the fascinating boundary between the classical and quantum worlds.s

We aim to create and investigate this novel system both in a molecular beam that is irradiated by intense laser light and through collisions between laser-cooled atoms, in order to compare these environments. To achieve this goal we regularly control a wide variety of lasers and their interactions with atoms and molecules.

Research in my lab involves an exciting mix of optics and electronics, of vacuum technology and apparatus design, and of experiment and theory. This constitutes an ideal preparation for a future career in either the academic or the commercial sectors.
If you are interested in working in this field, or for more information, please contact me at the address above.
A list of my publications/patents can be found here

Past and Present Research Group members:

Graduate students and postdocs:    
Lisa Ugray (MSc student: Materials Science: thesis here)   May 2011 - Sep 2013
Jeffrey Philippson (PhD student: Trent/Queen's Physics Program: thesis here)   Sep 2007 - Jan 2012
Matt Romerein (MSc student: Materials Science: thesis here)   Sep 2009 - Sep 2011
Jaclyn Semple (MSc student: Trent/Queen's Physics Program: thesis here)   May 2009 - Dec 2010
Bryan van der Ende (Postdoc)   Aug 2009 - June 2010
Rob Collister (MSc student: Trent/Queen's Physics Program: thesis here)   Sep 2006 - Nov 2009
Jeffrey Philippson (MSc student: Trent/Queen's Physics Program: thesis here)       Sep 2005 - Sep 2007

Project students:
Simon Meik (2004-2005); Hassan Kibirige, Lisa DiLorenzo, Brian Srivastava (2005-2006); Geron Bindseil (2006-2007); Jaclyn Semple (2007-2008); Matt Romerein, Eric Brown (2008-2009); Nolan Woodley (2012-2013); Chris Peacock (2016-2017)

Co-op students:
Lisa Ugray (2004-2005); Ryan Zhou (2005-2006); Kevin Tuck (2008-2009); Amy Zhou (2009)

Summer students:
Tom McCarthy - USRA (2005);
Julian Atfield - USRA, Ryan Zhou, Lisa Ugray (2006);
Lisa Ugray - USRA (2007);
Jaclyn Semple - USRA (2008);
Stephen McMurtry - USRA, Lisa Ugray (2009);
Kevin Tuck, Stephen McMurtry (2010);
Aidan Bharath, Greg Hodgson (2012);
James Godfrey - USRA, Steven Ufkes - USRA (2014);
James Godfrey - USRA (2015)
Chris Peacock, Yuchen Song (2017)

Prospective graduate students - if you are interested in studying and manipulating matter using a wide variety of laser sources, then please look into the Trent/Queen's Graduate Program (MSc or PhD), Trent/UOIT's Materials Science Graduate Program (MSc or PhD) and Trent's Applied Modelling and Quantitative Methods Graduate Program (MSc).

Prospective summer students - in addition to full-time graduate students, I typically employ two or three undergraduate summer students in my laboratory from May until September. See NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award poster.

Teaching Information

I have taught, am currently teaching, or will soon be teaching, the following courses at Trent - click on the links below to obtain the latest information about these courses:
PHYS 1001H: Introductory Physics I
PHYS 1002H: Introductory Physics II
PHYS 1020H: Forensic Physics
PHYS 1510H: Introductory Astronomy I
PHYS 2610H: Introductory Quantum Physics
PHYS 2620H: Atomic, Molecular and Nuclear Physics
PHYS 2250H: Electronics
PHYS 2700H: Thermal Physics
PHYS 3200Y: Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 4050H: Advanced Experimental Techniques
PHYS 4220H: Electromagnetic Theory
PHYS 4240H: Modern Optics
PHYS 4600Y: Quantum Physics
PHYS 461H: Advanced Laboratory
PHYS 5900H: Advanced Topics: Molecular Physics
AMOD 5010H/MTSC 6260H - Optics and Optical Properties of Materials

I have been course coordinator for the following courses...
PHYS 4000Y: Course outline for PHYS 4000Y: Project Course
PHYS 4010H: Course outline for PHYS 4010H & one semester project course
PHYS 4000Y & 4010H: Application Form for these project courses

I am always interested in the experimental teaching labs at Trent:
Trent Physics Laboratory Instructions
(Parts of this document adapted from http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~durkin/phys617/labstart.pdf)

Physics in General

Here you can work through some tips, tricks and traps in mechanics - predominately at the 1st year undergraduate level.

Why study Physics?

For you:

  • Excitement of doing something intellectually stimulating.  You learn something new every day.
  • Accomplishment of solving problems.  You can say you did/built/understood it.
  • Physics is a truly international subject.  Click here  for links to some physics societies from around the world.
  • Every physical event in the Universe is due to interactions between matter.  The fun bit is discovering what these interactions are, how big an effect they have, and how to harness them in a beneficial way.

For employers:

Do you want someone who can...
  • understand complicated concepts?
  • communicate experimental procedures and scientific results to a wide audience?
  • collect and analyse large data sets?
  • use a variety of technical tools yet never stops learning..?
A Physics graduate with the wide range of transferable, complex skills that they have developed during their degree is incredibly valuable to employers in technical and industrial sectors.

See the information from the Trent University Career Centre or the Canadian Association of Physicists careers website for information about the paths a Physics degree leads to.
If you have any comments on these pages, please email me.

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