Robert Brown

Distinguished University Professor and Institute Professor

Rockefeller Building 204



I have collaborated on industrial physics with over a dozen high-tech companies for upwards of 30 years and worked longer than that (50 years!) on astroparticle and education physics. I’ve played a prideful role in the emergence of five new manufacturing (!) companies, and I’ve mentored more than 100 postdocs, doctorates, master’s students and undergraduates. My research group efforts have resulted in over 200 published papers and abstracts, my former students hold at least 150 patents (ten co-authored by me) and we have worked in radiation physics, MRI, PET, CT, electromagnetics, inverse methods, mechanical and thermal modeling, nonlinear dynamics, EEG, MEG, industrial and medical sensors, and physics education, as well as a professional-life-long involvement in elementary particle physics and cosmology.

Other Milestones

The truly fulfilling nature of a physics career in teaching and research certainly stems not only from its depth and variety, but also from the close collaboration of students. In my case, a beginning devotion to basic astroparticle physics extended to industrial (especially MRI) research, and an added focus on physics education research, all involved even very young students. Spin-offs from the teaching include the writing of a 1000-page MRI textbook (it’s been called the big green book and the daily companion of the MRI scientist), the creation of GRE flashcards (more than 3000 students from all over the globe have hard copies and, now, web and smartphone apps, and a project ‘What your fifth- grader needs to know about college physics!’. In a pioneering entrepreneurial physics master’s program, I have co-advised most of its 50 graduates to date. Most recently, our team, which included an undergraduate who wrote his senior thesis on the subject, has won a “Patent for Humanity” award from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the invention of a magneto-optical battery-operated malaria detection device (cheap, portable, fast). See below for further developments.


Our principal applied areas are simulations in imaging (dominated by MRI but with increased attention paid to PET, CT, and radiotherapy) and of electromagnetic sensors. Finite element, FDTD, and Monte Carlo codes are important computational tools, along with analytical methods such as functional analysis with constraints. We engage in mathematical modeling of instruments and other electromagnetic systems and we optimize on those models in terms of their parameters, leading to such results as a “supershielding criterion” for optimizing magnetic and electric field confinement. My present and former students and I have initiated/designed three decades of MRI complete system (main, gradient, rf) commercial magnetic coil products, working with both large OEMs and those start-ups I mentioned above. (One of those start-ups began in my computational lab, Quality Electrodynamics, which now – 2017 – has more than 170 employees, at least 20 of whom trained in our physics department. The CEO/president obtained his Ph.D. with me, and thanks to his efforts, QED was ranked 11th among America’s twenty best young companies by Forbes Magazine in 2009 and has won many other awards.

An early basic research activity has been theoretical calculations in support of new high-energy experiments, especially novel tests of the electroweak parameters through the production of pairs of weak bosons. (We discovered “radiation symmetry” in this way.) A series of experiments were performed in the subsequent years, and the latest round of boson-pair experiments reported in the last couple of years confirmed the original “radiation zero” and yielded refined constraints on trilinear couplings for the bosons. There is a new generation of radiation-zero experiments planned and carried out at the LHC in Switzerland. This past year has seen a former student and myself extend the radiation symmetry ideas to the radiation of gluons in quark physics. Other basic research has dwelt upon cosmology (e.g., solutions to cosmic string equations) and fluid nonlinear analysis (e.g., stability of solitary waves under large perturbations).

In the area of physics education research we have identified a “post-exam syndrome” and worked on the problem of a “teflon education.” In the first, we consider the dilemma of students with unresolved difficulties associated with their exam performance and, in the second, we address ways to improve learning retention by novel repetition methods (“cycling”). At the present time, we have had at least twelve different lecturers employ cycling for more than two-dozen introductory classes at four different universities.

In summary, I point to the many marvelous undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate collaborators who have led much of the above efforts. You can understand from what I have already said that the two most important words in my professional life are indeed “former students.” As for recent events, our industrial design work and its 30-year history have led to the official designation of our research group as OPTIMISE (Ohio Platform for Tomorrow’s Industrial Medical Imaging Systems and Equipment – serving an increasing number of companies in the commercialization of their products. We were invited to describe our cycling method in “The Physics Teacher.” And just now led by my former and present students we have followed up on our malaria detector to use related technology to invent a similarly fast, portable, cheap monitor of oil contaminants in the prediction of engine failure in a wide variety of industrial applications, and we have just started up a new company, Crystics (Crystalline Diagnostics) LLC. Stay tuned to see where it all goes!

Selected Publications and Patents

Baig, Tanvir; Amin, Abdullah; Deisser, Robert; Sabri, Laith; Poole, Charles; Brown, Robert; Tomsic, Mike; Doll, David; Rindfleisch, Matthew; Peng, Xuan; Mendris, Robert; Akkus, Ozan; Sumption, Mike; Martens, Michael, “Conceptual designs of conduction cooled MgB2 magnets for 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla full body MRI systems”, Superconductor Science and Technology,  Volume 30(4), 043002 (2017).

B. Grimberg, R. Deissler, W. Condit, R. Brown, J. Jones, and R. Bihary, “Magneto-Optical Diagnostic Devices and Methods,” U.S. Patent # 9,575,052 B2, 2017

R.W. Brown and S.G. Naculich, “Color-factor symmetry and BCJ relations for QCD amplitudes”, JHEP 1611, 60, 2016. (arXiv:1608.05291v3)

R.W. Brown and S.G. Naculich, “BCJ relations from a new symmetry of gauge-theory amplitudes”, JHEP 1610, 130, 2016. (arXiv:1608.04387v2)

R. Brown, “Challenges in faculty entrepreneurship in the sciences: becoming an entrepreneur but staying at the university”, Ch. 3 in Embracing Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines, Ed. S. Nambisan, 31-50, Elgar Pub., Sept. 2015

R. Brown, The Back Page, Starting Up But Staying Put, APSNEWS 24(1), 8, January 2015.

Textbook, 2nd Edition: Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Physical Principles and Sequence Design. R. W. Brown, Y.-C. Cheng, E. M. Haacke, M. R. Thompson, and R. Venkatesan, 944 pp., John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ 2014.

M. A. Martens, R. J. Deissler, Y. Wu, L. Bauer, Z. Yao, R. Brown, and M. Griswold, Modeling the Brownian relaxation of nanoparticle ferrofluids:Comparison with experiment, Med. Phys. 40, 022303, 2013.

Z. Yao, Y. Wu, T. Chmielewski, S. Shvartsman, M. Martens, T. Eagan, R. Brown, Simulation Guidelines for Incision Patterns on RF Shields, Concepts in Mag. Resonance Part B, 41B(2), 37-49, 2012

X. Shou, X. Chen, J. Derakhshan, T. Eagan, T. Baig, Sh. Shvartsman, J. Duerk, R. Brown, The suppression of selected acoustic frequencies in MRI, Applied Acoustics Vol. 71, 191-200, 2010.

B. Yao, J. Z. Liu, R. W. Brown, V. Sahgal and G. H. Yue, Nonlinear features of surface EEG showing systematic brain signal adaptations with muscle force and fatigue, Brain Research, Vol. 1272, 89-98, 2009.

X. Chen, V. Taracila, T. Eagan, H. Fujita, X. Shou, T. Baig, and R. Brown, An antenna-theory method for modeling high-frequency RF coils: a segmented birdcage example, Intern. J. of Antennas and Prop., Vol. 2008, Article ID 456019, 2008.

D. E. Farrell, C. J. Allen, M. W. Whilden, T. K. Kidane, T. N. Baig, J. H. Tripp, R.W Brown, S. Sheth and G.M. Brittenham, A new instrument designed to measure the magnetic susceptibility of human liver tissue in vivo. IEEE Trans. Magnetics, 43, 9 (1): 3543-3554, 2007.

T. N. Baig, T. P. Eagan, L. S. Petropoulos, T. K. Kidane, W. A. Edelstein, and R. W. Brown, Gradient coil with active endcap shielding, Concepts in Magnetic Resonance Part B, 31B(1), 12-23, 2007.

T. K. Kidane, W. A. Edelstein, T. P. Eagan, V. Taracila, T. N. Baig, Y.-C.N. Cheng and R. W. Brown, Active-Passive Shielding for MRI Acoustic Noise Reduction: Network Analysis, IEEE Trans. Magn., 42:3854 – 3860, 2006.

V. Taracila, T. Eagan, L. Petropoulos and R. Brown, Image uniformity improvement for birdcage-like volume coils at 400MHz using multichannel excitations. Concepts in Magnetic Resonance Part B, 29B(3), 153-160, 2006.

J.D. Willig-Onwuachi, T. P. Eagan, Sh. M. Shvartsman, and R. W. Brown. Designer RF field profiles for parallel imaging applications. Concepts in Magnetic Resonance Part B, 27B(1), 75-85, 2005.

T. P. Eagan, Y.-C. Cheng, T. K. Kidane, H. Mathur, T. Chmielewski, J. Flock, Sh. M. Shvartsman, and R. W. Brown. A group theory approach to RF coil design. Concepts in Magnetic Resonance Part B, 25B(1), 42-52, 2005.

V. Taracila, W. A. Edelstein, T. K. Kidane, T. P. Eagan, T. N. Baig, and R. W. Brown. Analytical calculation of cylindrical shell modes: implications for MRI acoustic noise. Concepts in Magnetic Resonance Part B, 25B(1), 60-64, 2005.

J. Z. Liu, Q. Yang, B. Yao, R. W. Brown, and G. H. Yue: Linear correlation between fractal dimension of EEG signal and handgrip force. Biological Cybernetics, 93:131-140, 2005.

W. A. Edelstein, T. K. Kidane, V. Taracila, T. N. Baig, T. P. Eagan, Y.-C. N. Cheng, R. W. Brown, J. A. Mallick. Active-Passive Gradient Shielding for MRI Acoustic Noise Reduction. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 53:1013-1017, 2005.

J. D. Willig-Onwuachi, R. W. Brown, and Sh. M. Shvartsman, Birdcage coils for simultaneous acquisition of spatial harmonics, U.S. Patent #6,791,321, 2004.

J.-Z. Liu, L.-D. Zhang, R. W. Brown, G.-H. Yue, Reproducibility of fMRI results at 1.5 T in a strictly controlled motor task, Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, vol. 52, pp. 751-760, 2004.

Y.-C. N. Cheng, R. W. Brown, M. R. Thompson, T. P. Eagan, and Sh. M. Shvartsman, A comparison of two design methods for MRI magnets, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 1908-1914, 2004.

J.-Z. Liu, Z.-Y. Shan, L.-D. Zhang, V. Sahgal, R. W. Brown, G.-H. Yue, “Human brain activation during sustained and intermittent submaximal fatigue muscle contractions: an fMRI study,”Journal of Neurophysiology 90: 300 – 312, 2003.

Y.-C. N. Cheng, T. P. Eagan, T. Chmielewski, J. Flock, M.-C. Kang, T. K. Kidane, Sh. M. Shvartsman, and R. W. Brown, A degeneracy study in the circulant and bordered-circulant approach to birdcage and planar coils, Magnetic Resonance Materials in Biology, Physics, and Medicine, vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 103-111, 2003.

J.-Z. Liu, R. W. Brown, and G.-H. Yue, A dynamical model of muscle activation, fatigue, and recovery, Biophysical J., vol. 82 No. 5, pp. 2344-2359, 2002.

R. W. Brown, Y.-C.N. Cheng, W. C. Condit, and D. E. Schuele, Detection of wear particles and other impurities in industrial fluids, U.S. Patent #6,255,954, 2001.

Sh. M. Shvartsman, R. W. Brown, H. Fujita, M. A. Morich and L. S. Petropoulos, Supershielding of finite length structures in open magnetic and electric systems, U.S. Patent #6,236,203, 2001.

T.-H. Dai, J.-Z. Liu, V. Sahgal, R. W. Brown, and G.-H. Yue, Relationship between muscle output and functional MRI-measured brain activation, Exper. Brain Research, vol.140, pp. 290-300, 2001.

Sh. M. Shvartsman, R. W. Brown, Y.-C. N. Cheng, T.P. Eagan, H. Fujita, M. A. Morich, L. S. Petropoulos, and J.D. Willig, Application of the SUSHI Method to the Design of Gradient Coils, Mag. Res. Med., vol. 45, pp. 147-155, 2001.

S. M. Shvartsman, R. W. Brown, Y.-C. N. Cheng, T. P. Eagan, and J. D. Willig, Supershielding: trapping of magnetic fields, IEEE Transactions on Magnetics, vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 3116 -3119, 2001.

R.W. Brown, Y.C. Cheng and M. Kurtay, A Formula for Surgical Modifications of the Breast, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 106, p. 1342-1345, 2000.

E. M. Haacke, R. W. Brown, M. R. Thompson, and R. Venkatesan, Textbook: Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Physical Principles and Sequence Design, 914 pp., John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY 1999.

R. Brown and Sh. Shvartsman, Supershielding: Confinement of Magnetic Fields, Phys. Rev. Lett., vol.83. No. 10, pp. 1946-1949, 1999.

Y.-C. Cheng, R.W. Brown, Y.-C. Chung, J.L. Duerk, H. Fujita, J.S. Lewin, D.E. Schuele, and Sh. Shvartsman, Calculated RF Electric Field and Temperature Distributions in RF Thermal Ablation: Comparison with Gel Experiments and Liver Imaging, JMRI, vol. 8 No. 1, p. 70, 1998.

M. A. Morich, L. S. Petropoulos, H. Fujita, Sh. Shvartsman, and R. W. Brown, Technique for designing distributed radio frequency coils and distributed radio frequency coils designed thereby, U.S. Patent #5,689,189, 1997.

R.W. Brown, Understanding Something About Nothing: Radiation Zeros, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Vector Boson Self-Interactions, A.I.P. Press 350, 261 (1996).

M. R. Thompson, R. W. Brown, and V. C. Srivastava, An inverse approach to the design of MRI main magnets, IEEE Trans. Mag., vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 108-112, 1994.

M. A. Martens, L. S. Petropoulos, R. W. Brown, J. A. Andrews, M. A. Morich, and J. L. Patrick, Insertable biplanar gradient coil for MR imaging, Rev. Sci. Inst., vol. 62 No. 11, p 2639, 1991.

R.W. Brown, Research Apprenticeships for Young Undergraduate Women, Conference on Women in Mathematics and the Sciences, St. Cloud State University, Sandra Z. Keith and Phillip Keith, 70, 1990.

R. W. Brown and D. B. DeLaney. Product representation for the harmonic series of a unit vector: A string application. Phys. Rev. Lett., 63:474, 1989.

R. W. Brown, K. L. Kowalski, and S. J. Brodsky. Classical radiation zeros in gauge theory amplitudes. Phys. Rev. D, 28:624, 1983.

R.W. Brown, D. Sahdev, and K.O. Mikaelian. W±Zo and W±γ pair production in νe, pp, and p̄ p collisions. Phys. Rev. D, 20:1164, 1979.

R. W. Brown and R. W. Stecker. Cosmological baryon number domain structure from symmetry-breaking in grand unified field theories. Phys. Rev. Lett., 43:315, 1979.

R.W. Brown and K.O. Mikaelian. W+W and ZoZo pair production in e+e, pp, and p̄ p colliding beams. Phys. Rev. D, 19:922, 1979.

R. W. Brown, L. B. Gordon, and K. O. Mikaelian. Production of neutral weak bosons in high-energy electron and muon experiments. Phys. Rev. Lett., 33:1119, 1974.

R. W. Brown, A. K. Mann, J. Smith. Neutrinos Versus Muons in W-Boson Production. Phys. Rev. Lett., 25:2577, 1970.