Kenneth (Ken) Segall

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Kenneth (Ken) Segall

Professor of Physics

Department/Office Information

Physics and Astronomy
317 Ho Science Center


I spent my grade school years in upstate New York and attended high school in Mahwah, N.J. In 1989, I attended Fairfield University in Connecticut,  majoring in physics with a minor in mathematics, computer science, and philosophy. 

In 1993, I moved up I-95 to New Haven, Conn., and attended graduate school in applied physics at Yale University. I received a PhD in 1999 in the group of Daniel Prober and was awarded Yale’s Harding-Bliss Prize in Engineering. I stayed on at Yale for eight months and worked as a post-doc in the research group of Rob Schoelkopf. In September of 2000, I moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and did post-doctoral work in the group of Terry Orlando. In August of 2003, I started here at Colgate, and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in December of 2008.

I married Karen Cheal in 2002 in Cambridge, Mass., and we have two children, Nadia and Nico.

An important aspect of physics today is the effort to understand how the fundamental laws of nature result in complex behavior, often referred to as the study of emergent phenomena. For example, how does something as straightforward as a system of gas molecules organize itself into something as complex as a tornado? Two factors play a key role in the study of emergent phenomena: complexity, the number of constituents in a system, and nonlinearity, a property common to most system dynamics. Nonlinear systems which can be controlled, easily measured and scaled to large numbers are thus important to understand.

Networks of superconducting Josephson junctions are examples of such systems. Josephson junctions are inherently nonlinear systems which can be fabricated with adjustable parameters, measured in a straightforward fashion, and easily scaled to large network sizes. In addition, a large circuit of Josephson junctions measured over a long time contains dynamics which would be essentially impossible to calculate on a computer, but which can be observed with basic electrical measurements.

In our research, we study the behavior of networks of Josephson junctions. We have followed previous work in this field in studying soliton-like modes called fluxons or vortices and localized modes called discrete breathers. We have also begun work on synchronization in a system of disordered oscillators. Finally, we have devised a circuit of Josephson junctions to accurately model the time-dependent behavior of the voltage of a neuron, with an eye toward studying the emergent behavior of a large, coupled neural network. Our work fits in with Colgate University’s strong tradition of undergraduate student involvement in academic research.


BS, Fairfield University, 1993; PhD, Yale University, 1999

  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (Physics 372)
  • Real-time Nonlinear Dynamics + Chaos (Physics/Math 407)
  • Intro to Differential Equations (Physics 202)
  • Sports and the Scientific Method (CORE 100, FSEM 133)
  • General Physics III (Physics 122)
  • Div/Grad/Curl (Physics 204)
  • Electronics and Instrumentation (Physics 282)
  • Solid State Physics (Physics 420)
  • General Physics II (Physics 121)
  • General Physics I (Physics 120)
  • Mechanics  (Physics 302)
  • Advanced Topics and Experiments (Physics 410)

Electronics, solid state physics, nonlinear dynamics, superconductivity, mechanics

Superconducting electronics, low temperature electron transport and superconductivity, nonlinear dynamics, quantum computing and quantum information, single photon detectors, analog simulation of neurons

  • Postdoctoral associate, M.I.T., September 2000 to July 2003
  • Postdoctoral associate, Yale University, January to September 2000
  • Yale Engineering Harding-Bliss Award, May 2000
  • NASA Graduate Student Research Program (GSRP) Fellowship, 1994-1997
  • Department Award for Excellence in Physics, Fairfield University, May 1993
  • Presidential Scholar (Full Tuition Scholarship), Fairfield University 1989-1993
  • Salutatorian, Mahwah High School, 1985-1989