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Center for Plasma Science and Technology

From lightning bolts to neon lights to the furnace known as our sun, plasmas are everywhere. In fact, 99% of the measurable universe is in the plasma state. Thus, cold plasmas can light the dark corners of our lives while hot plasmas can liberate us from the risks of radioactive waste and the fears from nuclear proliferation. The future is now with the need for revolutionary new physics in our treatments of photons, ions and electrons. The future is now with the need for a generation of new plasma and photonics physicists. Florida A&M University (FAMU) answers the challenge!

Housed in the Department of Physics at Florida A&M University (FAMU), The Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST) is to become the premier center for the study of plasmas in the state of Florida. In its newly renovated and expanded facility in Tallahassee’s Innovation Park, the Center is home to a highly successful team of faculty, students and researchers dedicated to the new science and new applications of theoretical, experimental, and computational Plasma Physics. The center is the flagship of FAMU’s commitment to comprehensive research excellence with technological impact.
Major Programs Include:

  • Remote Sensing Research in the Nation’s Defense
  • Fusion and Plasma Research for Alternative Power and Advanced Materials
  • Advanced Computations Research in support of Plasmas and Photonics Physics
Research Areas and Facilities

Center faculty, staff and students conduct research in a newly renovated 30,000 sq. ft. facility housing state of the art equipment. Research activities range from purely basic sciences to applied development, with active collaborations with academia, industry and government laboratories. Area of research include X-Pinch Physics, Laser Plasma Interactions, Computational Dynamics of Atomic and Molecular Processes, Investigations of Turbulence in Plasmas, Materials Processing and Characterizations, and Ultra-fast Spectroscopy. In support of these research efforts, CePaST is home to many unique laboratory instruments and supporting diagnostics including:
  • 3.5 Terawatt Laser System
  • X-Pinch System
  • Raman Microscope

  • 128 - Node (256 Processor) Apple Xserve Computing Cluster
  • Mach 50 Arc Driven Shock Tube
  • 2 Ultra-fast Steak Camera Systems
  • Many other Nanosecond and Femetosecond Laser Systems
  • An arsenal of multi-Ghz Digitizing Oscillscopes
  • Array of fast Spectrometer and Spectrographs
Center Funding
The CePaST investigators have received nearly $40 M in federal and state funding to support their research activities. This has included support from Boeing Aircraft Corp, NSF, NASA, NOAA, DOE and DOD. Current research has been supported by NASA for applications to hypersonic aerodynamics, by DOE for applications to fusion science, and by DOD for applications to materials research and to experimental, theoretical, and computational physics in remote sensing through the breakdown spectroscopy in plasmas. In addition to its external funding, CePaST projects, staff and students receive support directly from FAMU.

Center Management
The CePaST Director, Dr. Joseph Johnson, has overall responsibility for CePaST operations. He coordinates scientific supervision with the CePaST investigators as they supervise the various Centers and Laboratories which may function within the CePaST infrastructure and with the FAMU Vice President for Research who is responsible for the CePaST facility in meeting CePaST goals, objectives and milestones.

The CePaST Deputy Directory, Dr. Lynette Johnson, is the Chief Financial Officer for all research projects which operate under the CePaST infratructure. The option to operate under the CePaST infrastructure is available to all CePaST investigators, an option which provides to them reliability, efficiency, and accountability in their fiscal affairs as a benefit to the funding agencies and to FAMU. Dr. Charles Weatherford is CePaST Chief Scientist for Computational Physics. He has pioneered new algorithms for percise calculations in atomic and molecular systems using high performance computers. Dr. Lewis Johnson is CePaST Chief Scientist for Photonics. He has provided altered states of matter using ultra-high powered ultra-short laser pulses for new spectroscopy venues at gas-material interfaces.

Center Faculty

Richard Appartaim, Associate Professor of Physics

Richard Appartaim, Associate Professor of Physics
Tel: (850) 599 - 8459 Email: richard.appartaim@famu.edu
Research: X-Pinch Science - High density, high temperature, highly localized plasmas formed by driving large currents through very fine wires which are excellent sources of soft x-ray radiation with applications such as “point source” x-ray imaging and as sub-kilovolt radiation sources.

Kalayu Belay, Associate Professor of Physics

Kalayu Belay, Associate Professor of Physics
Tel: (850) 599 - 3815 Email: kalayu.belay@famu.edu
Research: Materials Processing and Characterization - Synthesizing, characterizing and understanding the physics of a variety of carbon–based and carbonnanostructured materials with potential applications in new device applications such as nano-electronics, sensors, flat panel displays, and other areas of emerging technology.

Maurice Edington, Associate Professor & Chairman of Chemistry

Maurice Edington, Associate Professor & Chairman of Chemistry
Tel: (850) 599 - 8494 Email: maurice.edington@famu.edu
Research: Ultrafast Spectroscopy - Nonlinear laser spectroscopy; condensed phased reaction dynamics; chemical physics; molecular biophysics; coherence spectroscopic studies of solvation dynamics; the application of photoacoustic calorimetry to the study of protein reactivity

Lewis Johnson, Chief Scientist, Assistant Professor of Physics

Lewis Johnson, Chief Scientist, Assistant Professor of Physics
Tel: (850) 599 - 8456 Email: lewis.johnson@famu.edu
Research: Laser Plasma Physics - Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) with nanosecond and femtosecond sources, Ultrafast Atmospheric Pulse Propagation, Remote Sensing Science and Technology for Rapid Detection of Materials of Interest.

Joseph Johnson, Director, 
Professor of Physics

Joseph A. Johnson III, Director, Professor of Physics
Tel: (850) 561 - 2471 Email: joseph.johnsoniii@famu.edu
Research: Plasma Turbulence - Glow discharge, Microwave induced and laser induced plasmas as well as moving and stationary plasmas behind ionizing shock waves with implications for remote sensing, materials characterizations, aeronautics, astrophysics and fusion.

Charles A. Weatherford, Chief Scientist, Professor & Chairman of Physics

Charles A. Weatherford, Chief Scientist, Professor & Chairman of Physics
Tel: (850) 599 - 8382 Email: charles.weatherford@famu.edu
Research: Computational Molecular/Atomic Dynamics - Computational Atomic and Molecular Physics including Interaction of photons,electrons, positrons, and atomic ions with Molecules; Quantum Control of molecular dynamics; Laser-molecule interactions; plasma dynamics and simulations

Educational Opportunities

Educational Opportunities

CePaST offers a wealth of research opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students. Students at Florida A&M university can pursue degrees in the following areas:
  • PhD in Physics
  • MS in Physics or Chemistry
  • BS in Physics or Chemistry
Scholarship and Research Assistantship Support as well as Summer Research opportunities are available. If you are interested, applications for undergraduate and graduate study are way to obtain. Click here, to download forms. For further information, call (850) 599-3470 and ask for information about the admissions application process.

For more information about the Research or the Center please contact the individual scientist. General questions can be directed to:

Mrs. Sandra Chin
Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST)
2077 E. Paul Dirac Drive | Tallahassee, FL 32310
Tel: (850) 599 - 3943 | Fax: (850) 599 - 3901


Halina Niculescu
Ronald L. Williams
Bidhan Saha
Richard Appartaim
Ray H. O'Neal, Jr.
Charles A. Weatherford
Kalayu Belay
Lewis Johnson
Mario R. Encinosa

Keith Jackson

The faculty, staff and students in the dept. of physics conduct research in over 40,000 sq. ft. of space that houses state of the art equipment. The faculty investigators have received nearly $40 M in federal and state funding to support their research activities.

I'd like to invite you to consider the persuit of graduate degrees in physics, particularyly the Ph.D. degree

Dr. Keith Jackson, Vice President of Research and Professor of Physics.


Charles A. Weatherford

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Dept. of Physics is in the midst of a period of rapid progress. A new Ph.D. program, in addition to our existing B.S. and M.S. programs, in Physics, started in the Fall of 2001.

The research facilities and productivity have expanded at a rapid pace since that time. Undergraduate and graduate student support, including tuition support, is available for qualified students.

Dr. Charles A. Weatherford
Chairman Department of Physics.