Research - Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering - Christopher Newport University

Department of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering


Our faculty are involved in cutting-edge research across an array of fields. Students can gain vital experience by working closely with professors on these projects.

We investigate and develop frameworks and methodologies in support of software engineering pedagogy. Our projects include:

Gooey: A Lean JUnit Testing Library for Java Swing Applications

Gooey is a programmatic, capture-and-test framework for Java Swing applications. Its integration to JUnit lets developers write automated tests that expose the components of displayed windows and allow manipulating them to verify expected results.

Gooey is currently being extended to support the testing of JavaFX applications.

Assignment Development Tools (ADTools)

Developing programming assignments that provide effective feedback to students is a resource- and time-intensive activity. As a result, instructors tend to give fewer assignments than what might be desired for pedagogical effectiveness.

ADTools provide a framework and tools to streamline and automate the assignment development process. The current framework enables JUnit methods to be written using only textual specifications of pre and post conditions, while the tool can generate complete Web-CAT JUnit classes given a spreadsheet describing the test cases. Our current work involves automatic generation of test cases, and an assignment specification language and translator.

Roberto Flores (
Anton Siochi (

Capable Humanitarian Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab (CHRISLab)

At CHRISLab we focus on developing robotic technologies that extend human capabilities and protect human life. One example is removing humans from harm’s way during rescue operations and developing assistive technologies that enable increased levels of independence for human users.

Specifically, our group focuses on formalizing component capabilities in a way that enables automatic synthesis of high-level behaviors based on user-defined task specifications. Our goal is to simplify the problem of deploying robotic systems, and enable non-engineers to re-task the system to take on changing responsibilities consistent with the system’s specific capabilities.

Communicational Collaborative Agents (COCOA Lab)

At COCOA Lab we seek to understand the role communication plays on enabling (software) agent collaboration in multi-agent systems. From message meaning to protocol specification to team formation, we look at communication through the spectrum of infrastructure, language, protocol, and social context to analyze collaboration and build tools to formalize it.

David Conner (
Roberto Flores (

We focus on the hardware and software systems that provide the foundation of our networked world. We address challenges that arise across a broad spectrum of technologies and at various layers of the protocol stack.

One emphasis is on applications of software-defined radios (SDRs) in networking and wireless communications. We leverage the flexibility of cognitive radios to improve spectrum sharing and utilization in novel wireless networking protocols. Further projects in this area include post-disaster networks, real-time localization using SDRs and investigating 5.8 GHz ISM band indoor signal propagation. In the fields of mobile computing and the internet of things our focus is on novel applications and the evaluation of platforms and systems.

Jonathan Backens (
Keith Perkins (
Anton Riedl (

For almost two decades, the nuclear physics group has made significant contributions at nearby Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab). The group is supported through a National Science Foundation operating grant, with a focus on the program of experiments that will be carried out following the upgrade of JLab to a 12 GeV beam energy. In addition, the group members are supported in their research efforts through joint staff scientist appointments at JLab.

Experimental Physics Program

Dr. Edward Brash is involved in the successful form factor program where he is a spokesperson for two approved experiments that will take place in the 12 GeV era at JLab.

Dr. David Heddle develops visualization software for complex event topologies, which is of central importance to optimized event reconstruction and physics analyses.

Dr. Peter Monaghan’s research is a balanced blend of experiment, theory and hardware development. He contributes to the research program at JLab by running experiments in Halls A and C and in the improvement of parton distribution functions in describing real data with the CTEQ-JLab collaboration.

Hardware and Software Development

The nuclear physics group has taken on responsibility for the construction, testing and commissioning of the Coordinate Detector, which is a crucial component of the JLab Hall A SuperBigBite experiment detector package. Monaghan leads the hardware development side, while Brash is leading the data acquisition, analysis and simulation software efforts. Heddle leads a team of researchers on the development of software for the newly constructed CLAS12 spectrometer in Hall B, with a focus on event visualization.

Our group is also involved in a collaborative effort with Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia and JLab in the development of the CLAS12 polarized target to be used in longitudinal spin structure and other experiments in Hall B.

Edward Brash (
David Heddle (
Peter Monaghan (

Christopher Newport is an active member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration (LSC), whose continuing mission is to discover new gravitational wave signals from astrophysical events such as colliding black holes and neutron stars. Starting with the initial detection of gravitational waves (GW) from a binary black hole merger called GW150914, and now continuing with the first detection of GWs from a binary neutron star merger associated with a gamma-ray burst (GRB) called GW170817, the era of true GW astronomy has begun. Our group focuses on three specific areas within the field of GW astronomy, and undergraduate and master's students are actively involved in all three areas of research:

Detector Characterization

Both Dr. Fisher and Dr. Walker work to improve the ability to distinguish actual detections of GWs from noise in the LIGO interferometers as part of the Detector Characterization (DetChar) group within the LSC. This effort is critical to increasing the number of detected GW events, because the noise in the LIGO instruments limits the distance to which GW events can be detected. Dr. Walker has recently developed a new regression algorithm to find correlations between variations in LIGO’s sensitivity over time and instrumental noise, and Dr. Fisher's group is exploring machine learning approaches to identifying transient noise events.

Multi-Messenger Astronomy

Dr. Fisher focuses on multi-messenger astronomy using gravitational wave signals as a tool for studying transient astrophysical phenomena. The detection of GWs from the binary neutron star merger, GW170817, when combined with the coincident GRB detection, GRB 170817A, and the electromagnetic follow-up campaign that discovered associated afterglows across the electromagnetic spectrum, has had a significant impact on the understanding of the progenitors of short GRBs, kilonovae, and the equation of state of neutron stars. This collection of observations and discoveries have demonstrated the capabilities of multi-messenger astronomy with the addition of GWs. Dr. Fisher's group is searching for GWs associated with newly detected GRBs or fast radio bursts (FRB), which are extremely short-lived and extremely energetic bursts of radio waves first detected by radio telescopes in 2007. The progenitors of FRBs are completely unknown, and many astronomers are actively trying to detect more of these events to learn what might cause them.

Simulated Gravitational Waveforms & Numerical Relativity

Dr. Walker also specializes in improving theoretical gravitational waveform models using numerical relativity, within the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) collaboration. This research involves the numerical solutions to Einstein's equations of general relativity using complex computational algorithms. Dr. Walker's research focuses on generating simulated gravitational waveforms from the coalescence of binary black holes in order to extend binary black hole waveform models for rapidly spinning black holes. By improving these models, we can better interpret the physics behind observed gravitational wave signals.

Ryan Fisher (
Marissa Walker (

Smart Grid and Renewable Energy Sources

The electric power industry is going through a transformation, moving from a centralized, producer-controlled system to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive (“Smart Grid”). This transition leads to changes in various aspects of power system analysis, including modeling and control design.

Our research group develops and applies technologies, tools and techniques to make the future electricity grid more efficient, reliable and secure. One particular focus is on modeling and control design of distributed generation (DG) units and renewable energy sources (RES) in microgrid systems with the goal to achieve high energy efficiency, low environmental impact and uninterruptible outputs.

We also investigate task scheduling algorithms for energy management systems, to optimize the use of power by categorizing and prioritizing loads in a way that an efficient load dispatch is achieved. Our goal is to develop algorithms that simultaneously improve power system reliability, operability and intelligence. We focus on systems capable of real time “intelligent” monitoring through the use of distributed smart devices and on optimized handling of power consumption by analyzing smart devices data.

Multi-Agent and Cyber Physical Systems

Multi-agent and cyber physical systems are key components of modern distributed smart grids, introducing the actual “intelligence” into the power systems and, thus, enabling the coordination between power sources and demands and the optimized distribution of power.

Our group investigates the potential of such decentralized techniques as well as their implications for cybersecurity. For example, we have developed optimized design procedures for local controllers for voltage and frequency regulation in islanded microgrids under stochastic conditions that result from the variability in distributed and renewable sources. We have also derived defense strategies to improve the resiliency of such systems against attacks on the underlying communication infrastructure.

Farideh Doost Mohammadi (
Hessam Keshtkar (

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