gibbons photo

Patrick C. Gibbons

Professor Emeritus

Office Contact Information

366 Compton

Physics Department, CB 1105
Washington University
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA

(314) 935-6271
(314) 935-6379
(314) 935-6219

Research Interests

Gibbons has retired.

1. Research Achievements and Description of Current Activities

  • Characterization of intermediate-range order in amorphous metal alloys by diffraction
  • Characterization of SLS grown semiconductor nanowhiskers and quantum wires
  • Teaching strategies and conceptual change in a professional development program in science for in-service K-12 teachers

Gibbons has worked as a collaborator with other professors at Washington University in all of these projects. He has been consulting since 2002 with Kenneth Kelton, also in Physics, on the interpretation of diffraction data collected from amorphous metal alloys in solid, liquid, and undercooled liquid states. From these data and other measurements inferences can be drawn about intermediate-range order, that beyond first and second neighbors, in the materials. Gibbons continues to consult on the use of fluctuation electron microscopy to obtain additional information about the intermediate-range order in the same amorphous solids.

Since about 1990 Gibbons has collaborated with Bill Buhro, who is in Chemistry. Gibbons works with chemistry students and Buhro interpreting the data they obtain from IMSE’s electron microscopes. Low temperature growth in solution of 100 nm diameter crystalline semiconductor rods was recognized to be catalyzed by molten metal droplets (In, Ga) when the solid drops were found at the ends of the rods in TEM images. Current work aims to obtain metal spheres a few tens of nm or less in size, monodisperse (all the same size) to use as catalysts for arrays of small diameter, single-crystal, semiconductor rods. These are called quantum wires because their electrical and optical properties are affected by quantum phenomena in this size range.

Between 2001 and 2007 Gibbons supervised Physics graduate students along with colleagues in our Department of Education. They were collecting data about the learning of K-8 teachers enrolled in University College professional development courses in physical science. The first student succeeded in observing the processes by which conceptual change occurred in some of the teachers, and correlating those processes with the teaching strategies employed by the instructors. Gibbons is now co-supervising a Ph.D. student in Education with background and interests in physics.

2. Current Collaborations

  • Professor William E. Buhro, Chemistry, Washington University
  • Professor Kenneth F. Kelton, Physics, Washington University
  • Ms. Ann P. McMahon, a science and engineering teaching and learning consultant
  • Mr. John F. Wiegers, Science Outreach, Washington University

Dr. Gibbons is a member of the Institute of Materials Science and a fellow of the Institute for School Partnership.


Patrick C. Gibbons' Complete Publications List

Professional History

Gibbons received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard in 1971; advisor Norman Ramsey. He served as instructor and assistant professor in physics at Princeton from 1971 to 1976; supervisor Steve Schnatterly. He came to Washington University as assistant professor of physics in 1976, and has more recently served as associate professor and professor of physics. Gibbons retired as of July 1, 2013.

Gibbons has taught introductory physics courses for science majors and for non-science majors, upper level undergraduate courses for physics majors, and graduate-level physics courses. He also teaches hands-on physical science for in-service elementary teachers. He has served as a consultant in the school districts of University City and Riverview Gardens.

Gibbons's research in experimental physics has evolved from atomic physics (Harvard) to solid-state physics (Princeton and Washington University) and more recently to materials physics.