Center for Plasma Science and Technology

The Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST) is one of Florida A&M University's premier research centers specializing in plasma science and technology and many associated experimental, theoretical, and computational subdisciplines. 


In 2005, the Florida A&M Department of Physics established its presence at Innovation Park, a university-related research and development campus in Tallahassee, investing in the Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePAST), with its scope being the study of plasmas, substances which are generally considered the ‘fourth state of matter’. The center has since become one of the premier research facilities in the state of Florida.

CePaST is  home to a highly successful team of faculty, students, and researchers dedicated to new science and novel applications of theoretical, experimental, and computational plasma physics, environmental research, and chemical engineering.  Major programs include:

  • High Energy Density Physics
  • Remote sensing research to enhance the nation’s defensive capabilities
  • Fusion and plasma research
  • Developing advanced materials for use in defense and technological applications
  • Researching efficient computational algorithms in support of plasma and photonic physics

The center is the flagship of FAMU’s commitment to comprehensive research excellence with technological impact.

The 32,000-sqft facilities include: student study areas, a computer cluster, a laser plasma lab and space for Florida’s first fusion facility. Faculty members, along with graduate and undergraduate student researchers are dedicated to innovative  applications of theoretical, experimental and computational plasma physics.


The strategic mission of the FAMU Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST) is to produce world-class scientific and technological innovation in theoretical, experimental, and computational plasma physics and photonics.  The goals of the center are to: Provide tools to enhance the nation’s security against domestic and foreign threats; Support the development of alternative sources of clean and sustainable energy; Conduct basic research on plasmas and advanced materials under extreme conditions; Provide a pool of highly trained men and women to broaden the nation’s scientific workforce.

These goals will be achieved through a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research activities inclusive of research on remote sensing; fusion; carbon-based nanoscience; advanced algorithms; laser-matter interactions; and fundamental atomic and molecular quantum mechanical phenomena.


Laboratory Research Focus Listed by Professor


Charles Weatherford, Ph.D.

Vice President of Sponsored Research

Director of CePaST

Theoretical and computational studies in:

  • High Energy Density Physics and Chemistry
  • Simulation of laser-plasma interactions
  • Quantum control and machine learning
  • Electron molecule, photon molecule interactions
  • Bound states of molecules
  • Computation of material properties for nano-sensors
  • Energy storage and photonics
  • Quantum information
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Lewis Johnson, Ph.D. 

Associate Provost for Student Success and Strategic Initiatives

Assistant Director of CePaST

  • Laser- Matter Interactions
  • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)
  • Physics of LIBS
  • Application of LIBS for Hazardous Material Detection (Nuclear, Explosive, Chemical, Biological)
  • Chemometric Analysis
  • STEM Education
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Richard Appartaim, Ph.D.

Experimental plasma physics with emphasis on:

  • High energy density laboratory plasmas
  • Soft x-ray emission from microsecond x-pinches
  • Axial jet formation characteristics with relevance to astrophysics
  • Ultra-fast plasma diagnostics
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Natalie Arnett, Ph.D.


The focus of our research group is to develop multifunctional polymer membranes for various applications.  The overall goal is to design polymers with tunable properties and characterize their structure-property relationships using a variety of methods. The significance of this approach is that polymers with precisely tailored performance can be prepared by tuning the microstructure of the copolymer backbone using varying and distinct structural/functional features.  Current areas of interest in the APRL include:

  • Fuel Cells- this research is focused on improving the properties of poly(arylene ether sulfone) polymers and membranes for proton exchange membrane fuels using phosphonate and sulfonated additives along with triazine based monomers. Published research with phosphonate additives shows increases in the water performance properties of BPSH-35 copolymer. Direct insertion of a methoxy triazine derivative (DCMT) demonstrated hydrolysis during Method 2 acidification.
  • ​Water Purification- The long-term goal of this project is to synthesize a polyester polyamide thin-film composite (TFC) membrane with an active layer that enhances current reverse osmosis (RO) TFC membrane water flux (52 LMH) and salt rejection (99.6%). Past research from the APRL lab with an amino based monomer demonstrated considerably higher values than the industrial standard at higher concentration of the monomer. 
  • ​Biopolymers- The goal of this research is to develop poly(xylitol sebacate) (PXS) nanoparticles for drug delivery.  Various reaction times and the effect on nanoparticle formation was investigated.  To date PXS nanoparticles have been formed via a nanoprecipitation method.  SEM and DLS-hydrodynamic size confirmed the average diameter of the unloaded and curcumin loaded PXS-MP-15H nanoparticles to be 262 nm and 352 nm, respectively. DLS-zeta potential for the unloaded and loaded nanopartilce were -15.7mV and -0.159mV, respectively.
  •  MXenes – the focus of this research is to develop novel etch methods based on utilizing elemental halogen/non-fluorine based etching procedures in oxygen-free non-aqueous solvents for removal of the “A” layer to further development and mass produce MXenes for commercial applications. Our research will focus on the synthesis and theoretical assessment of Ti3C2Tx MXenes physical and chemical properties with controlled and homogenous surface functionality.
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Kalayu Belay, Ph.D.

  • Mechanical characterization of carbon nanotube (CNT) yarns
  • Electrical characterization CNT yarns
  • Investigating piezoresistive response of CNT yarns
  • Detection of damage in composite materials using CNT yarns
  • Stain measurement using CNT yarns
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Dawn Lewis, Ph.D.

Elemental analysis of environmental samples using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). Presently our focus is the elemental analysis of samples of petrified wood for Colorado. Learn More

Ephrem Mezonlin, Ph.D.

  • Experimental Physics
  • High density plasmas studies on Fusion devices
  • Compact Neutral Particle Analyzer for measurements ion temperature measurements on MST
  • New diagnostics for electron and ion temperature on STPX
  • Search for renewal sources of energy
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Bidhan Saha, Ph.D.

Chair of Physics Department

Theoretical and Computational Atomic and Molecular Physics studies:

  • Electron and positron impact Elastic and Inelastic collisions
  • Charge exchange phenomena involving Atoms,
  • Molecules and Solids
  • Resonance and Virtual states
  • e - molecule scattering including rotational and vibrational states
  • 3-body breakup processes

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Article: Bidhan C. Saha, PhD, Presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who



Carol Scarlett, Ph.D.

Studying nuclear and particle physics experimentally to uncover explanations for currently observed phenomena such as Dark Matter, Dark Energy and evidence for matter-antimatter asymmetries.

Of Interest:

  • Experimental searches for Dark Matter Candidates (e.g. axion particles)
  • Cross sectional measurements of positron-neutron beta decays
  • Materials that lead to random walking through birefringent interactions
  • Quantum Computing

Experimental Techniques:

  • Development of Gas Electron Multiplier (GEM) detectors
  • Mirror Cavity amplification of optical effects
  • High Powered Laser production of Antimatter
  • Birefringence of materials for use in computing components
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James Strohaber, Ph.D.


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Komalavalli Thirunavukkuarasu, Ph.D.

Probing interplay of spin, charge, lattice and orbital degrees of freedom in functional materials under extreme conditions such as high magnetic field, high pressure and low temperatures using spectroscopy

Materials of interest:
•    Nano-materials
•    Molecular magnets
•    Multiferroics
•    Correlated electron systems
•    Energy materials

Experimental Techniques employed:
•    Raman scattering and photoluminescence
•    Broadband infrared spectroscopy
•    THz spectroscopy
•    Multi-frequency Electron Paramagnetic Resonance

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Ronald Williams, Ph.D.

STPX Spheromak Lab: Applications of magnetic field confined plasmas to fusion energy studies; astrophysical applications;
plasma generation, evolution and relaxation; diagnostic development.
Laser Plasma Beam Physics:  Studies on the interactions of lasers, plasmas and particle beams; accelerator physics and relativistic plasma wave acceleration; X-Ray studies and generation; diagnostic development.
High Energy Density Physics:  Studies on laser plasma interactions, astrophysics, atomic and plasma spectroscopy, ionization, electron ion equilibration; diagnostics.
Computational modeling and visualization.
Student research, internships and outreach.
Advisor for Society of Physics Students, and Sigma Pi Sigma,


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