Faculty and Staff

Director, High Pressure Science and Engineering Center 
Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy University of Nevada, Las Vegas


There is great interest in studies on the relationship between structural, elastic, electronic, and magnetic properties of d- and f- electron correlated-electron systems. Correlated-electron systems are so named because there are strong interactions between electrons unlike traditional metals such as copper that have weakly interacting “free electrons.” Studies on correlated-electron systems have wide ranging interest from defense related issues to future use in nanoscale devices. Experimental results are a necessity for understanding these complicated materials and allow critical tests to theory. My research revolves around collaborations between UNLV and DOE funded laboratories (LANL, LLNL, LBNL, ANL) to study the properties of correlated-electron materials at high pressure.

 Pamela Burnley

StoneMtn(small)Research Associate Professor

Department of Geoscience  &
HiPSEC Associate Director for Education
Office: LFG 212
Phone: 702-895-5460
Email: Burnley@Physics.unlv.edu


Pamela is a geologist and geophysicist whose primary research interests lay in understanding the microphysical behavior of polycrystalline materials (especially rocks) as they undergo deformation and phase transformation. She has expertise in high pressure deformation experiments, synchrotron x-ray diffraction, electron backscatter diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, high pressure synthesis and numerical modeling.  Pamela is also interested in understanding the geologic sources of natural background radiation and using this understanding to help predict background radiation for the purposes of nuclear disaster response.

Changfeng Chen

Professor and HiPSEC PI

Department of Physics & Astronomy




Changfeng Chen is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UNLV and a principal investigator at HiPSEC.  Prof. Chen performs research in condensed matter theory and computational materials physics. His recent work has focused on material properties under extreme conditions, such as high pressure, high temperature, high strain, and high electrical fields. Specific projects include phase stability and transition of d- and f-electron materials, superhard materials, topological insulators, pressure induced superconductivity, advanced materials for energy storage and conversion and novel nanoscale materials that exhibit extraordinary structural, mechanical, electronic, magnetic, and/or transport properties.

Paul Forster

Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry        
Associate Professor, Radiochemistry Program
Office:  SEB 2139 Phone 702-895-3753
Email: paul.forster@unlv.edu

Professor Forster is a materials chemist with broad research interest centering around structure-property relationships achieved through an atomistic picture of solids.  Research in his group includes exploratory synthesis of crystalline nanoporous materials, gas sorption, and scattering.  In HiPSEC, his primary interests are fundamental chemistry of radioelement materials, especially the element technetium, and in using pressure to develop geologically stable long-term storage solutions for radioisotopes.

Shirin Kaboli, Ph.D. Photo_Shirin Kaboli-K

Assistant Research Professor
Department of Geoscience
E-mail: shirin.kaboli@unlv.edu
Phone: 702-895-1753

I am primarily a materials scientist and my research focuses on understanding the dynamic deformation and phase transformation behavior of rocks and minerals during the natural thermomechanical processes. I conduct deformation experiments using uniaxial hot-compression apparatus and in-situ synchrotron x-ray diffraction. For characterization, I use electron channeling contrast imaging (ECCI) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) in a scanning electron microscope (SEM) as well as transmission electron microscopy (TEM). For numerical modelling, I use Elastic-Plastic Self-Consistent (EPSC) modeling and MARC/Mentat finite element modeling. These research tools provide a better understanding of small-scale processes which dictates the large-scale thermomechanical behavior of materials. Current projects include experimental study of plastic deformation under deep earth conditions, testing stress percolation theory for stress transmission in rocks and analyze synchrotron diffraction data using numerical models.

 Ravhi Kumar

Research Associate Professor
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Office: BPB-150
Email: ravhi@physics.unlv.edu

Ravhi Kumar

Ravhi’s research focus is on the study of the interplay between crystal structure, bonding, spin, magnetic ordering and transport properties of strongly correlated f electron materials, iron based superconductors, metal hydrides and thermoelctrics at ambient and at high pressure conditions. He extensively uses in-house and synchrotron high pressure experimental techniques (XRD,RIXS, NRIX, XANES and X-ray Raman) in collaboration with National Lab scientists and experts from various laboratories for investigation. Few additional areas of interests are the study of phase diagram of pyrochlore ceramics suitable for nuclear waste containment, phase change memory alloys for memory storage applications, bonding properties of super hard materials used for defense applications, nanothermites and reaction kinetics of energetic materials. Most of these ceramic materials are prepared using in-house facilities and characterized using XRD, SEM, EDAX and TEM equipments at HiPSEC and UNLV laboratories. Currently two graduate and several undergraduate students are working on various projects. He has published more than 78 peer reviewed papers and 65 presentations related to HiPSEC-NNSA projects.

 Barbara Lavina

meResearch Associate Professor and HIPSEC PI
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Office: BPB 110
Phone: 702 895 1733
e-mail: lavina@physics.unlv.edu


Planetary interiors are characterized by extreme conditions of high pressure and temperature. Processes occurring at such conditions shaped Earth: formed the atmosphere, mountains and oceans, ore deposits, etc. It is critical to understand  stability, properties and crystal chemistry of phases of the deep planetary interiors to understand how Earth formed and how volcanism and earthquakes develop.  Studies include phase stability ranges, structure of high pressure phases, equation of states, deformation at the atomic level and lattice effects of electronic phase transition. Synchrotron microdiffraction techniques are the experimental methods of choice; other techniques used include neutron diffraction, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and nuclear forward scattering.

Cara Loomis

20141105_120154Assistant Program Director, Outreach
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Office: BPB-162
Phone: 702-895-1593

I have been employed by the UNLV Department of Physics and Astronomy since 1993.  For the first 17 years I served as Office Manager for the entire department working with all aspects of departmental administration.

I joined the High Pressure Science and Engineering Center in 2010 as the Assistant Program Director, Outreach.  I am responsible for the overall administration of the Center that includes budget management, statistical reporting and proposal submissions.

20141203_143734James L. Norton

Mechanical Designer / Machinist
Department of Physics & Astronomy

Provide daily support to the following:

High Pressure Science and Engineering Center (HiPSEC): Support operations of the high-pressure research by designing, machining, fabricating, assembling, and installing specialized equipment.

Solid-modeling engineering design using 2013 SolidWorks CAD and fabricate state-of-the art prototype equipment using Mastercam-X7 as part of a team of physicists engaged in research. Develop detailed engineering drawings and fabricate parts from suggestions by in-house Physicists. Design and fabricate apparatus’ that are used to build up diamond-anvil cell capabilities with emphases on machining small intricate parts.

 Michael Pravica

Professor and HiPSEC PI

Department of Physics & Astronomy


Prof. Pravica studies organic materials (Pravica HiPSEC Photohydrocarbons, energetic materials/explosives etc.), inorganic materials (e.g. oxidizers), and wide bandgap semiconductors at high pressure and variable temperatures all within the 1 Mbar regime.  His group is engaged in also developing useful hard x-ray photochemistry as a novel field of science by harnessing the highly ionizing, highly focused, and highly penetrating properties of hard x-rays (>7keV) to initiate novel chemical decomposition and synthesis reactions under isolated and extreme conditions with the aim of creating and studying highly nonequilibrium states of matter and enabling novel pathways for the synthesis of challenging materials.  The methods used by Prof. Pravica’s group to interrogate matter under extreme conditions include Raman and infrared spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction and x-ray related spectroscopies (XRS, XES, EXAFS, NFS, etc.).

Ashkan Salamat


Assistant Professor
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Office: BPB 117
Phone: 702-895-1716
Email: salamat@physics.unlv.edu

Light elemental systems (H-C-N-O) and their related compounds are of great interest for Fundamental and Applied Sciences. A unique combination of high pressure and high temperature conditions can enable access to new, low-energy configurations or metastable states. As a result, materials can undergo striking transformations to new phases with unique properties.
The research goals of our group are to advance laser heating and pyrometry techniques for high pressure experiments and to explore: (1) Melts and Liquid-Liquid Transitions – probed using both spectroscopic and diffraction techniques. (2) Material Synthesis – the use of nanocrystalline and amorphous precursors for accessing novel nitrides. (3) Structural Transitions – Ceramics.

Oliver Tschauner

Research Associate Professor
Department of Geoscience
Email: Olivert@Physics.unlv.edu

Mineralogy of extreme conditions

I’m interested in the minerals and rocks that experience the most extreme conditions in the solar system. This includes minerals that form during impacts upon intense dynamic compression and – heating. The remnants of such impacts are found in many meteorites that experienced shock compression during collision of their asteroid parent bodies. Another interesting, chemically quite different, kind of impact rocks is found in and nearby terrestrial impact craters which form when sufficiently large asteroids hit Earth.

High pressure- and high-temperature minerals that form during impacts in space or on Earth exhibit a large variety of compositions, quite beyond what can ever be systematically explored by experiment. However, this vast array of structural and chemical data guides experimental research about the deep Earth interior, the early Earth and solar system, and also in Material Science.

I explore the structure, composition, and properties of these natural (and synthetic) high-pressure/high-temperature minerals and phases and correlate the conditions of their formation with the thermodynamics of very high pressures and –temperatures.

Liping Wang

HiPSEC Webpage Photo_Liping Wang Associate Research Professor High Pressure Science and engineering Center & Department of Physics and Astronomy Office: BPB-141 Phone: 702-895-1725 Email: liping.wang@unlv.edu

Dr. Wang specializes in the development and application of large volume press (LVP)-based techniques in conjunction with synchrotron radiations for studying materials properties under extreme conditions. His main interests include novel material synthesis and characterization, thermal equations of state, phase equilibria, deformation, strength and thermal mechanics, acoustic velocities and elasticity, phase transition and reaction kinetics, diffusion, order-disorder, and water storage in anhydrous minerals at simultaneous high pressures and temperatures.

qiangzhuQiang Zhu

Assistant Professor

Department of Physics and Astronomy at UNLV

Qiang Zhu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UNLV. Research in his group is focusing on the fundamental understanding of structure-properties relations in materials research, with the goal of discovering and designing new materials. At present, his group is interested in the subjects of 1) materials under extreme conditions; 2) organic crystal polymorphism; 3) materials defects including surfaces and interfaces. Zhu’s group employed a variety of methods to investigate the properties for real materials, including atomistic simulation based on molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo techniques, density functional theory based electronic structure methods and structure prediction techniques using evolutionary algorithms.

Post-doctoral scholars

S. Esakki Muthu


Department of Physics and Astronomy




My research interest has been focused on studying the transport and magnetic properties (particularly magnetocaloric effect) of Ni-Mn based Heusler alloys under hydrostatic pressure and understanding the quantum phase transition in some f electron systems particularly in Eu system, since so far no Eu system has been found where the magnetic ordering temperature decreases continuously to zero with pressure owing to the increase in the level of hybridization.

Chen Lu


Department of Physics and Astronomy  





Cheng Lu joined HiPSEC as postdoctoral fellow in April 2016. His research mainly focuses on the structure search technique in conjunction with first-principles calculations to explore novel crystal structures, new phenomena and new physics of condensed matters under high pressure or other confined conditions.

smithdDean Smith

Department of Physics and Astronomy dean@physics.unlv.edu                                               office BPB127, lab BPB127

Dean joined HiPSEC as a member of the Salamat Lab in May 2016 after receiving his PhD from the University of Salford in Manchester, UK. With a background in high pressure physics and chemistry, Dean’s primary research interests are in the syntheses of new functional materials at combined high pressure – in a diamond anvil cell – and temperature – either through resistive or laser heating – and determination their structures and properties through a combination of crystallographic and spectroscopic methods.

Dr. Pei Wangpeiwang

Department of Physics & Astronomy


Lab: 702-895-1323; Office:702-895-1922


Dr. Pei Wang joined HiPSEC as a Visiting Scholar in September 2014. After earning his Ph.D. degree from Sichuan University in China in June 2016, he remained with HiPSEC as a Postdoctoral Associate. Pei has a background in high pressure physics and large volume press (LVP) techniques. His research interests focus on the syntheses and property studies of novel materials (superhard, transition-metal phosphides, transition-metal sulfides) using LVP and diamond anvil cell (DAC) under extreme conditions.

Yonggang Wang

txDepartment of Physics & Astronomy

Phone: 630-487-1168

Yonggang Wang joined HiPSEC as postdoctoral fellow in September 2013. He has material chemistry and structure chemistry background when he studied in China. His current research interests include the exploring of new materials with low-dimentional structure and phase transition under extreme conditions.