Dr. Jeffrey S. Olafsen

Associate Professor of Physics, Undergraduate Program Director
High Res Photo

Associate Professor of Physics


  • Ph.D. - Physics, Duke University - 1994
  • M.A. - Physics, Duke University - 1991
  • B.S. - Physics, University of Southern Mississippi - 1989
  • B.S. - Mathematics, University of Southern Mississippi - 1989

Ph.D. Thesis: “Probing Thermal Transport Properties in Liquid Helium using a Time-Varying Heat Current.” Robert Behringer and Horst Meyer, Advisors.

Undergraduate Honors Thesis: “Bifurcations in Flow Fields Generated by a Torsionally Oscillated Sphere in a Linearly Stratified Fluid.” Raymond Folse, Advisor.


Jeffrey Olafsen grew up in Panama City, Florida. He double-majored in physics and mathematics graduating from the Honors College program at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1989. He attended graduate school at Duke University and received his Ph.D. in 1994 in condensed matter physics. It was at Duke University that he met his wife, Linda, who was also a graduate student in physics. Following postdoctoral positions at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst working on thin films and at Georgetown University working on granular physics, Dr. Olafsen took a faculty position at the University of Kansas. Dr. Olafsen joined the Baylor faculty in 2006.

Research and Academic Interests

Dr. Olafsen's research is in the fields of nonlinear dynamics and non-equilibrium systems. The research efforts tend to be both interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary with collaborators from other departments as well as other institutions. Dr. Olafsen enjoys collaborating with faculty in engineering, biology, and other sciences, publishing in both physics and other scientific journals. Dr. Olafsen is devoted to mentoring undergraduates in research and he has published several journal articles with undergraduate authors in premiere journals such as Physical Review Letters. Dr. Olafsen is the Editor of the Physics Department Newsletter.

Selected Journal Publications

1. K. Combs, J. S. Olafsen, A. Burdeau, and P. Viot, “Thermostatistics of a single particle on a granular dimer lattice: Influence of defects.” Physical Review E, 78, 042301 (2008).

2. Z. F. Alemdar, J. Browning, J. S. Olafsen and N. Hunt, “Monitoring RC Bridge Column Hinging with Photogrammetry.” Proceedings of the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Beijing, China, October 12-17, 2008.

3. I. S. Aranson, A. Snezhko, J. S. Olafsen, and J. S. Urbach, “Comment on �Long-Lived Giant Number Fluctuations in a Swarming Granular Nematic.'” Science, 320, 612 (2008).

4. G. W. Baxter and J. S. Olafsen, “Experimental Evidence for Molecular Chaos in Granular Gases.” Physical Review Letters, 99, 028001 (2007).

5. J. S. Olafsen and J. S. Urbach, “Two-dimensional melting far from equilibrium in a granular monolayer.” Physical Review Letters, 95, 098002 (2005).

6. K. Kohlstedt, A. Snezhko, M.V. Sapoznikov, I. S. Aranson, J. S. Olafsen, and E. Ben-Naim, “Velocity Distributions of Granular Gases with Drag and with Long-Range Interactions.” Physical Review Letters, 95, 068001 (2005).

7. S. Feldt and J. S. Olafsen, “Inelastic Gravitational Billiards.” Physical Review Letters, 94, 224102 (2005).

8. B. Bammes and J. S. Olafsen, “Polymer-like folding of a two-dimensional granular chain in water.” Chaos, 14, S9 (2004).

9. G. W. Baxter and J. S. Olafsen, “Kinetics: Gaussian Statistics in Granular Gases.” Nature, 425, 680 (2003).

10. J. T. Botz, C. Loudon, J. B. Barger, J. S. Olafsen, and D. W. Steeples, “Effects of Slope and Particle Size on Ant Locomotion: Implications for Choice of Substrate by Antlions.” Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 76, 3 (2003).


  • M. D. Sturge and J. S. Olafsen, A Solutions Manual for Statistical and Thermal Physics: Fundamentals and Applications by M. D. Sturge, Published by A.K. Peters, Ltd. (2005). Revised (2006).

Teaching Interests

Dr. Olafsen enjoys teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate level. He has previously taught classes in introductory physics, mathematical methods, statistical and thermal physics and nonlinear dynamics. Dr. Olafsen has written about teaching innovations and works to dispel the artificial barriers between the classroom and the research laboratory.

Courses Taught

PHY 1430 - General Physics II
PHY 1430 Honors - Honors General Physics II
PHY 4195 - Senior Physics Research I
PHY 4196 - Senior Physics Research II
PHY 1V95 - Special Research Problems
PHY 4340 - Statistical and Thermal Physics
PHY 5381 - Special Topics: Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos


Baylor Sciences Building D.311
One Bear Place #97316
Waco, TX 76798-7316

(254) 710-2511