Under Construction!

Dr. Michael Pravica

(Click on the above picture to see pictures of my thesis experiment.)
Currently, I am a Professor of Physics at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (UNLV). Formerly, I was an Assistant Professor of Physics at New Mexico Highlands University where I served as the Physics Program Coordinator during the Fall 2002/Spring 2003 year, and was elected the Chair of the Computer and Mathematical Sciences Department at NMHU for the Spring 2003 semester. I am currently engaged in research studying the optical properties of various materials at high pressures and variable temperatures using diamond anvil cells (DACs) in the 1 MBar (100 GPa) regime and beyond. I am also investigating various organic molecules under high pressures such as hydrocarbons and energetic materials. As a member of the High Pressure Center at UNLV (HiPSEC), I also perform X-ray (diffraction and inelastic scattering) experiments at Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source Advanced Photon Source. where UNLV has partial ownership of the HPCAT Facility. Recently, I have received ~$750,000 of equipment from Los Alamos National Laboratory including three four-circle x-ray diffractometers to develop single crystal high pressure and high temperature x-ray diffraction at UNLV. Finally, I am continuing my summer research work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD) in developing a novel method to dope wide bandgap semiconductors. I am also a proud father of two sons, Nicholas and Luka, and a daughter Natalia.

Thesis Research:

My thesis project studied hydrogen and other materials at high pressures using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). High pressure (from tens of kilobars to 0.5 Megabars) is generated by a Diamond Anvil Cell (DAC) of beryllium copper construction and NMR is performed using a homemade pulsed Fourier Transform NMR spectrometer that can be operated at 200 MHz or 223 MHz. Pressure is measured by the standard ruby fluorescence technique. Some of the many and major challenges of this research are the necessity of using tiny samples (~10^16 atoms) for high pressure resulting in very tiny NMR signal voltages to be observed (the order of a microvolt or less). [For comparison purposes, the number of proton spins contained in a 1cc quantity of water (a typical sample size used in conventional NMR spectrometers) is roughly 7x10^22.] As NMR is an insenstitive spectroscopic probe, small signal voltages are even further hampered by any spurious signals (e.g. from fingerprints, the residue from dirty solvents, or adsorbed water) that may come from impurities near the sample under pressure as well as inefficient RF coupling between the sample and RF coil. In particular, the metallic gaskets that are typically used for confining samples under high pressure shield radio frequency electromagnetic fields to and from the sample. Finally, the increasing overlap of intermolecular dipolar magnetic fields as lattice spacings decrease under increasing pressure results in short spin-spin relaxation times (T2) [order of a few microseconds]. This results in a large loss of information during the beginning stages of the Free Induction Decay (FID) as the deadtime of the RF signal amplifiers after application of transmitter RF pulses is of this order. This necessitates the use of extensive signal averaging and spin echo techniques. We have developed a novel gasket, the split gasket, which when use in conjunction with a complementary LC/NMR circuit, increases the rf coupling to and from the sample and has improved the coil sensitivity for performing NMR by roughly a factor of 50 compared to earlier NMR studies at high pressures. Loading samples for pressure studies presents a unique set of difficulties in addition to NMR challenges particularly for "soft" samples with extremely low melting temperatures (such as hydrogen - 14K) and high diffusivities. A new technique has been developed to load liquid hydrogen inside the NMR cryostat which allows us to keep the sample at low temperatures at all times. The ortho-para conversion of hydrogen using NMR was measured up to 128kbar for my Ph.D. thesis. This is the highest pressure ever studied with NMR. During earlier unsuccessful experiments in our laboratory, we achieved a pressure of ~253 kbar for a very small sample and during the successful ortho-para conversion experiment, our highest pressure achieved was ~160 kbar (we unfortunately did not collect any conversion rate data due to our losing the sample upon further pressurization). This should serve to give us confidence that high pressure NMR research using diamond anvil cells can go into the megabar regime with further improvements.


Scientific Publications:

Patents granted:

"Doping wide band gap semiconductors," United States Patent 7795120 with J. Price and N. Guardala of the NSWCCD.

Awards and honors of note received during and subsequent to my graduate career:

  • [2003] Office of Naval Research (ONR) Summer Faculty Research Fellow (Summer 2003).
  • [2002]Included in the book, "Who's Who Among America's Teachers, 2002"
  • [2002] Served as the lead judge for the junior category physics exhibits in the Northeastern regional science fair held at NMHU in the Spring of 2002.
  • [2001] Served as a judge for the physics exhibits in the Northeastern regional science fair held at NMHU in the Spring of 2001.
  • [2000] Served as a judge for the Taos (NM) Municipal Schools Science Fair
  • [1998] Awarded a Harvard Van Vleck Travel Grant to attend the Gordon conference, "Research at High Pressure."
  • [1997] Awarded an Harvard Graduate Student Council Travel Award to attend the 1997 American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conference.
  • [1995-1997]Received four Certificates of Teaching Distinction from the Derek Bok Teaching Center at Harvard University for teaching performance in Ph 191.
  • [1989] Awarded an AT&T Bell Laboratories Ph.D. Fellowship (lasted 4 years) in 1989.

Awards and honors of note received previous to my graduate career:

  • [1988] Awarded the Undergraduate Award for Spectroscopy ($1000) from the Society for Applied Spectroscopy Southern California Section for the discovery of the ALTADENA effect. Also awarded the Paul Studenski Memorial Award ($1000) from Caltech.
  • [1987] Awarded the George W. Green Memorial Prize ($750) for contributions made in my research for CERN's LEP/L3 detector. Received a Caltech Carnation Merit Scholarship ($8500) for academic merit.
  • [1985 - 1987] Received three SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) awards (one for each summer) from Caltech (~ $3000 each fellowship) to conduct research there.
  • [1984] Selected as one of the top 20 winners in the ACS's first National Olympiad and subsequently participated in an intensive two week chemistry training camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Participant in the Summer Pre-College Program at Argonne National Laboratory.
  • [1983] First place - American Chemical Society (ACS) Chicago Section Scholarship Examination in Chemistry ($1000).
  • [1980 - 1981] Participant in the National Science Foundation's Student Science Training Program in Engineering and Computers held at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. Winner of the balsa wood bridge-building contest.


  • [2010]Presented poster at the DIAMOND 2010 conference in Budapest, Hungary entitled: “A High Pressure and High Temperature Study of Melamine,” 9/08/10.
  • [2010]Presented talk at the EHPRG 2010 meeting in Uppsala, Sweden entitled: “High pressure studies of explosives using a Paris-Edinburgh cell,” 7/27/10.
  • [2010]Presented poster at the Gordon Research Conference "Energetic Materials," in Tilton, NH entitled, "High pressure studies of HMX," 6/16/10.
  • [2010]Two invited talks to Green Valley High School Students (Mr. Panik’s Physics courses): “Careers in Physics,” and “High Pressure Physics” Henderson, NV, May 20, 2010.
  • [2010]Invited to teach/demonstrate the physics of sound to room six at the Montessori Visions Academy (Henderson, NV) 5/14/10.
  • [2010]Invited UNLV University Forum presentation: “UNLV University Forum presentation: “Practical Physics for Life in the 21st Century.” April 22nd, 2010.
  • [2010]Invited talk to Boulder City High School students (Mrs. Wiesenborn’s Physics class): “The exciting world of high pressure physics and chemistry,” Boulder City, NV, January 6, 2010.
  • [2009] Invited talk to the UNLV 2009 Academic Assessment Symposium entitled: "Developing Rubrics for Physics Courses," Las Vegas, NV 11/5/09.
  • [2009] Invited talk to the "Challenges in Compression Science," conference entitled: Future Desired Directions in Static High Pressure Science, Santa Fe, NM 9/24/09.
  • [2009] Presented poster at the EHPRG 2009 meeting in Paris, France entitled: "High Pressure X-ray Raman Spectroscopic Study of Melamine," 9/110/9.
  • [2009] Presented poster at the AIRAPT 2009 meeting in Tokyo, Japan entitled: "Pressure-induced aromatization? High Pressure Studies of 1,3,5,7 cyclooctatetraene," 7/30/09.
  • [2009] Invited talk to Los Alamos National Laboratory (DE-9) entitled: "Studies of hydrocarbons, energetic materials, and wide bandgap materials under extreme conditions," Los Alamos, NM 7/22/09.
  • [2009] Two invited talks to Green Valley High School Students (Mr. Panik's Physics courses): "Careers in Physics," Henderson, NV, 5/27/09.
  • [2009] Invited talk for the HiPSEC review: "Studies of hydrocarbons, energetic materials, and wide bandgap materials under extreme conditions," Las Vegas, NV 05/11/09.
  • [2008] Invited talk to the Southern Nevada section of the American Association of Physics Teachers (SNAAPT) entitled: "The Large Hadron Collider at CERN: Determining the origins of our Universe" Las Vegas, NV, 10/3/08.
  • [2008] Contributed talk at the DIAMOND 2008 conference in Sitges, Spain entitled: "A novel method to dope diamond: ion beam nuclear transmutation doping (IBNTD)," 9/09/08.
  • [2008] Presented poster at the Gordon Research Conference "Research at High Pressure," entitled "High Pressure Studies of 1,3,5,7 Cyclooctatetraene: Experiment and Theory," 7/1/08.
  • [2008] Presented poster at the Gordon Research Conference "Energetic Materials," entitled, "Studies of triaminotrinitrobenzene under extreme static conditions," 6/17/08.
  • [2008] Two invited talks to Green Valley High School Students (Mr. Panik's AP Physics courses): "Careers in Physics," Henderson, NV, May 23, 2008.
  • [2008] Invited talk to the HiPSEC Annual Review entitled, "Bonding under extreme conditions," May 20, 2008.
  • [2007] Invited talk to the MURI 2007 Review symposium entitled: "X-radiation damage in energetic materials under extreme conditions," Aberdeen Proving Ground, September 27, 2007.
  • [2007] Presented talk at the AIRAPT 2007 conference entitled: "X-ray Raman Spectroscopic study of Benzene at High Pressure," Catania, Sicily, Tuesday, September 18, 2007.
  • [2007]Invited talk to the Illuminating Engineering Society, Las Vegas Section, entitled, "Physics of Lighting and Tesla," 9/11/07.
  • [2007]UNLV Physics Forum Talk: "Bonding under Extreme Conditions," Friday, August 31, 2007.
  • [2007]KNPR radio interview: "Legacy of Tesla," Friday, June 28, 2007.
  • [2007]Presented talk at he American Physical Society Shock Compression of Condensed Matter meeting in Hawaii (the Big Island) entitled, "Radiation-induced damage studies of energetic materials," 6/26/07.
  • [2007]Invited UNLV University Forum Lecture talk entitled: "Nikola Tesla: Visionary Genius, Man of Mystery and Legend," Friday, May 4, 2007.
  • [2007]Invited talk entitled, "Radiation-induced decomposition in energetic materials," SMEC 2007 meeting, Miami FL, 4/17/07.
  • [2007]Presented talk at the American Physical Society March Meeting in Denver entitled, "High Pressure and High Temperature Decomposition Studies of PETN and TATB," Denver, CO, 3/7/07.
  • [2006] Two presented posters at the Diamond and Related Materials conference in Estoril, Portugal, September 3, 2006.
  • [2006] Invited talk to the Las Vegas City Council entitled: "Global Warming," August 2, 2006.
  • [2006] Invited talk to the Energetic Materials/Insensitive Munitions Joint MURI Review, entitled: "Radiation Damage Studies of TATB and PETN," Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen, MD, Wednesday, July 12, 2006.
  • [2006] Invited talk entitled: "Nuclear transmutation doping of wide band gap semiconductors and x-ray synchrotron studies of metals at high pressures," to the University of California, Berkeley Nuclear Engineering Department on Monday, May 1, 2006.
  • [2006] Presented the invited talk, "Global Warming: Fact or Fiction" at the UNLV University Forum, April 27, 2006.
  • [2006] Presented talk at the American Physical Society March Meeting in Baltimore entitled, "X-ray diffraction study of elemental thulium to 86 GPa," Baltimore, MD, 3/15/06
  • [2006] Invited talk entitled, "High Pressure Studies of Explosives and Metals," East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 3/12/06.
  • [2005] Invited talk entitled, "High Pressure Physics at UNLV," Dine' College, Tsaile Main Campus, Navajo Nation, Tsaile, Arizona, 11/7/05.
  • [2005] Invited talk entitled "The World of High Pressure Physics," to SAGE program students, UNLV Honors College, August 3, 2005.
  • [2005] Invited talk entitled, "High Pressure studies of PETN," MURI program Kick-off Meeting, Caltech, Pasadena, CA., Tuesday July 26, 2005.
  • [2005] Presented talk entitled, "High-Pressure Synchrotron Radiation X-ray Diffraction Studies of Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate C(CH2ONO2)4,"(Talk T2-O063), Joint 20th AIRAPT and 43rd EHPRG Conf. Proc., Karlsruhe, Germany, June 27th - July 1st, 2005
  • [2005] Invited talk entitled, "Studies of phase transitions in PETN at high pressures," SMEC 2005 meeting, Miami FL, April 22, 2005.
  • [2005] Invited talk entitled, "The Exciting World of High Pressure Physics," UNLV Honors College Athenaeum Presentation, March 31, 2005.
  • [2005] Presented talk at the American Physical Society March Meeting in Los Angeles, entitled, "High Pressure Studies of PETN up to 74 GPa," (3/21/05).
  • [2005] Invited presentation to the Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, entitled, "Optical Properties Quantum Dot Sensors at High Pressures and Temperatures," January 5, 2005.
  • [2004] Invited UNLV University Forum talk entitled "The Great Contributions of Physics to Humanity," Las Vegas, Nevada, Monday, November 29, 2004.
  • [2004] Invited talk entitled "Direct Energy Conversion devices (DEC) using Ion Beam Nuclear Transmutation Doping (IBNTD)" delivered at Siltronics Inc., Portland, Oregon (October 15, 2004).
  • [2004] Presented poster at the International Union of Crystallography High Pressure Commission Workshop (IUCR2004) entitled: "High Pressure X-ray diffraction studies of PETN and Cyclohexane," Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (8/18 - 8/21/04).
  • [2004] Presented poster entitled, "Structural Studies of molecular and organic crystals under high pressure," at the Gordon Research Conference on high pressures Meriden, NH (6/27 - 7/1/04).
  • [2004] Presented talk entitled "Direct Energy Conversion Devices utilizing wide band gap semiconductors and IBNTD," at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, Maryland (6/2/04).
  • [2004] Poster presented at 2004 Stewardship Science Academic Alliances (SSAA) Program Symposium, Albuquerque,NM, 3/30/04.
  • [2004] Presented talk at the American Physical Society March Meeting in Montreal entitled, "Raman and X-ray measurements on cyclohexane up to 40 GPa," (3/22/04).
  • [2003] Poster presented at "Future Directions for Multifunction RF Electronics Technology," joint DARPA/ONR-sponsored conference, 11/19/03.
  • [2003] DOE NNSA/NV-UNLV Stockpile Stewardship Cooperative Program in Materials Science and Engineering 2003 Review - 12/5/03, "Experiments at High Pressure."
  • [2003] Invited talks at Chicago State University (1/03), CalPoly San Luis Obispo (2/03), Baylor University (3/03), and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (4/03).
  • [2002] Invited speech representing NMHU's Department of Math and Computer Science at the groundbreaking of the NMHU science center 11/1/02. The speech can be found here
  • [2002] Invited to presented a talk entitled "High-pressure and high temperature studies of molecular solids" to the Physics Department Colloqium at Colorado State University (Fort Collins) on Friday, March 29, 2002.
  • [2001] Presented a poster with my students Benjaman Remmers and Myo Aung at the APS 4-Corners conference November 3, 2001 entitled " High-pressure and high temperature studies of molecular solids."
  • [2001] Presented a talk "High Pressure Experiments" at the "Highlands Symposium Series" at NMHU on Friday March 30, 2001.
  • [1998] Invited to the Institute for Shock Physics at Washington State University (WSU) to present a talk on my thesis research on September 11, 1998.
  • [1998] Invited to present the talk, "A novel technique to perform NMR in a DAC to high pressures and a measurement of the ortho-para conversion hydrogen to 12.8 GPa," at Schlumberger-Doll Research in Connecticut, July 8, 1998.
  • [1998] Presented a contributed poster at the Gordon conference, "Research at High Pressure," June 21 - June 26, 1998.
  • [1998] Presented a contributed poster at the Conference on Quantum Fluids and Solids (QFS'98), at Amherst, MA., June 9 - 14, 1998.
  • [1997] Invited to present the talk "NMR experiments in a Diamond Anvil Cell" to Harvard physics graduate students, December 11, 1997.
  • [1997] Invited to present the talk, "Teaching Advanced Experiments at Harvard," at the Winter meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) during January 5-7, 1997.
  • [1994] Invited to speak on December 5, 1994 at the Boston Center for Adult Education. My talk discussed the importance of science to society and how the media has hindered popular support for scientific research on December 5, 1994 at the Boston Center for Adult Education.
  • [1988] Invited to present a talk on the ALTADENA effect at the Fall meeting of the Southern California Section of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, November 1988.

Grants, equipment and other monies received for research:

  • [2009] ARO MURI Award
  • [2007] UNLV Institute for Security Studies Summer Research Award ($19,800)
  • [2007] Nevada/NASA Space Grant ($124,466) distributed over two years.
  • [2006] Received ~$500,000 of equipment for performing in-situ high pressure and high temperature single crystal x-ray diffraction from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • [2005] UNLV Faculty Travel Award ($614.25) to travel to Dine' College for an invited talk.
  • [2005] UNLV-ARL Soldier FERST cooperative agreement ($100,000) for project: "Pressure-Induced Shifts of Molecular Vibrational Modes in Crystalline Explosives: Effect of Nearest Impact Sensor Neighbor Interactions"
  • [2004] NNSA DOE/UNLV startup funding (~$150,000)
  • [2003] UNLV New Investigator Award (NIA) ($15,000) for project: "A novel method to dope wide bandgap semiconductors."
  • [2003] UNLV Faculty Travel Award ($900) to attend DARPA/ONR joint RF conference.
  • [2003] NNSA DOE/UNLV startup funding (~$150,000)
  • [2002] NMHU Faculty Research Grant ($2581) for project: "A novel method to vary the energy of laser light."
  • [2002] NMHU Bridges Program Grant ($1000)
  • [2002] NMHU Faculty Research Grant ($4187) for project: "High-pressure and high-temperature Raman studies of materials."
  • [2002] 1999-2001 NSF CREST grant support (NMHU Center for nonlinear optics) (~$50,000)
  • [2001] E200 Series Laser Spectrum Analyzer (Valued at $4000) Gift from IST-Rees corp.
  • [2001] Los Alamos National Laboratory Education Equipment Gift Grant (~$50,000)
  • [2001] NMHU Bridges Program Grant ($1000)
  • [2000] NMHU Faculty Research Grant ($5000)
  • [2000] NMHU Bridges Program Grant (for hosting a Bridges student during the summer of 2000) ($1000)

    Technical Skills:

    NMR spectrometers; radio frequency and digital electronics; lasers (argon ion and Nitrogen UV, Ti-sapphire pulsed ultrafast femtosecond, Spitfire regenerative amplifier), fiber optic, and general optic methods; CCDs, PMTs, diode arrays, spectrophotometers, Raman techniques, infrared spectroscopy, low temperature techniques, cryostat design, cryogen handling, and cryogenic loading; precision machining (including electric discharge machining); materials science; ultra-high vacuum experience; turbomolecular pumps; superconducting magnets; medium energy accelerators (Van deGraaf,RFQ,LINAC); scintillating radiation detectors, X-ray methods (single cystal, powder diffraction, and X-ray Raman, Nuclear Inelastic X-ray scattering).

    Computer Skills:

    MAC, PC, IGOR, LabView, MS Word, GPIB, computer/device interfacing, WWW.

    Academic Service:

  • [2007-present] UNLV Admissions Committee Member
  • [2004-present] UNLV Physics Forum Coordinator
  • [2006] Service as the Nevada District Advocate for the American Physical Society. Recently, my students, colleagues and I visited the offices of five of our Nevada state representatives in the Congress and Senate in Washington DC to encourage them to support President Bush?s initiative to increase America?s competitiveness in technology and science via increased funding for basic research. A picture taken with Representative Shelley Berkley and our group in front of her office can be found at: Congress Picture.
  • [2004] Invited as an external evaluator/consultant to a multicampus visit of Dine' College to assist in preparation of an NSF TCUP grant application.
  • UNLV Faculty Marshall representing the Physics Department and the College of Sciences during May 2004 & 2005 commencements and December 2003 commencement.

    Courses taught:

    • Ph 112a Harvard (Wave phenomena)
    • Ph S1a Harvard (Classical Mechanics) - Harvard Summer School
    • Ph S1b Harvard (Electromagnetism) - Harvard Summer School
    • Ph 11a Harvard (Mechanics)
    • Ph 11b Harvard (Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves)
    • Ph 191/247r Harvard (Advanced Laboratory)
    • Phys 291/292 NMHU (Calculus Physics: Classical Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism + Lab)
    • Phys 402 NMHU (Statistical Physics)
    • Ph 380 NMHU (Advanced Laboratory 1)
    • Ph 151 NMHU (Algebra Physics)
    • Ph 311 NMHU (Advanced Mechanics)
    • Ph 361 NMHU (Modern Physics and Relativity)
    • Ph 337 NMHU (Mathematical Methods of Physics)
    • Ph 110 NMHU (Survey of Astronomy)
    • Hon 230 H UNLV Honors College (Scientific Worldview)
    • Phys 151 UNLV (Algebra Physics I)
    • Phys 152 UNLV (Algebra Physics II)
    • Phys 451/651 UNLV (Modern Scientific Instrumentation - team taught)
    • Phys 426/683 UNLV (Physics of Solids)
    • Phys 181 UNLV (Physics for Scientists and Engineers II)
    • Phys 182 UNLV (Physics for Scientists and Engineers III)
    • Phys 707 UNLV (Condensed Matter Theory I)
    • Phys 700 UNLV (Methods of Mathematical Physics)

    Professional Affiliations:

    • Tau Beta Pi (The National Engineering Honor Society)
    • Sigma Xi (The Scientific Research Society)
    • American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
    • New Mexico Science Fair Scientific Review Committee
    • American Physical Society (APS)
    • American Crystallographic Association (ACA)
    • American Chemical Society (ACS)

    My interests:

    • Physics - anything relating to quantum mechanics.
    • Teaching/Education
    • Writing
    • Public Speaking


    • Spending quality time with my wife, Maria, my handsome sons Nicholas and Luka, and my beautiful daughter, Natalia.
    • Writing letters to the Editor (~380 published to date) and Opinion Editorials (16 published to date). Some of my latest published op-eds: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 . Some of my science and education-related published letters can be found here.
    • Public speaking. A recent interview on Nikola Tesla on a local Las Vegas radio station (KNPR) can be found by clicking here .
    • Traveling.
    • Bicycling - long distance.
    • Hiking (Red rock, Hermit's Peak, Pike's Peak, Mt. Charleston, Diamond Head, Mt. Major etc.)
    • Playing the violin with the Las Vegas(NM)/NMHU orchestra.

    E-mail : Michael Pravica

    Alternate E-mail : Dr. Michael Pravica

    This page was last modified 10/15/10