Justin R. Sparks

Associate Professor of Chemistry // Muhlenberg College

Courses Taught

Physical Chemistry I // Quantum Mechanics
Physical Chemistry II // Statistical Thermodynamics
General Chemistry I/II // Foundations
Materials Chemistry // Solid State Materials
Scientific Computing // Free and Open Source Software

Research Interests

Traditionally, chemists follow a familiar tenet where the physical and chemical properties of molecules are controlled by changing the constituent atoms and/or the way in which those atoms are bonded together. Strong coupling is an alternative paradigm, where, instead, molecular properties are altered without changing the elements, bonds, or geometry in a formal sense. When a molecule is placed in an optical cavity (between two mirrors spaced apart by approximately one tenth of the thickness of your hair), a photon emitted from the molecule has an increased probability of being reflected back, reabsorbed, and emitted again. This oscillation of energy between the optical cavity and the molecule results in the formation of new quantum states, known as polaritons, that are composed of both light and matter. By coupling, or “mixing”, light with matter, my research group modifies the characteristics of molecules in an effort to access novel chemistries that are unattainable by traditional means.

residual entropy