Matthew C. Sullivan

Professor; Low Temperature Physics and Pedagogical Physics


(607) 274-3964
262 Center for Natural Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14850

Superconductivity Lab

Discover more about Matt's soft condensed matter and low-temperature physics lab!

I teach all branches of Physics to students from grade 5 through the senior level at Ithaca College.  My hope is to increase students' understanding of Physics but also to increase their critical and analytical thinking skills while fostering a love of Physics and a sense of wonder about the natural world.

My research is in low temperature Physics.  In particular, I study superconductivity.  The phenomenon of superconductivity is so unusual and counter-intuitive that it never ceases to amaze me.  See our pictures for examples of its interesting effects or the movies we've made about superconducting MagLev trains.

I also go to local schools with an outreach program called "Temperature and Heat" to discuss the effects of high and low temperatures on different materials, and the how energy flows from hot to cold objects.


I teach and have taught a variety of courses in the Physics department.  I enjoy teaching all levels: from introductory courses for non-majors, introductory courses for majors, all the way to senior-level selected topics courses for majors.  My passion (and the reason I became a Physics major myself) is for experimental Physics, and I have taught several of the advanced laboratory courses.  Throughout my teaching, I emphasize analytical and critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills in a collaborative environment.

Below is the list of courses I teach or have taught at Ithaca College.  All of these courses are now maintained on Sakai.  If anyone is interested in the courses below (for syllabi, course materials, etc.), please contact me via email.

  • PHYS 10200: Introduction to Physics II
  • PHYS 11400: Introduction to Experimental Physics
  • PHYS 11700: Principles of Physics I: Mechanics
  • PHYS 21700: Principles of Physics III: Waves, Optics, and Thermodynamics
  • PHYS 23200: Honors Intermediate Seminar: Relativity and Quantum Physics in Society
  • PHYS 31100: Analytical Mechanics
  • PHYS 32000: Thermodynamics
  • PHYS 36000: Advanced Physics Laboratory
  • PHYS 42100: Quantum Mechanics
  • PHYS 45100: Advanced Physics Laboratory II
  • PHYS 47003: Selected Topics in Physics: Solid State Physics
  • PHYS 49500: Senior Projects
  • PHYS 49700: Senior Thesis I
  • PHYS 49800: Senior Thesis II


I study transport (resistivity, Hall effect) and other properties (specific heat) of high-temperature superconductors in an effort to understand how these materials superconduct. My focus is on the normal-superconducting phase transition.

My previous research focused on the cuprate superconductor praesodymium cerium copper oxide (Pr2-xCexCuO4).  This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, included sample growth at the University of Maryland, sample patterning via photolithography at the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility, and measuring the samples back in the Low Temperature Lab at Ithaca College. 

Our current research focuses on the new iron-pnictide superconductor cobalt-doped BaFe2As2.  This research is also funded by the National Science Foundation, and again includes crystal growth at the University of Maryland and measurement at the Low Temperature Lab at Ithaca College.

Finally, our most recent line of work utilizes the new pulsed laser deposition system at Ithaca College and takes advantage of facilities at Cornell University.  Using the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source to generate intense x-rays, we are studying how thin-films are formed, one layer at a time.  I started this line of work during my sabbatical in 2012-2013.

Interested in what we do?  Take a look at  a movie made by Ithaca College Physics student Marco Salvaggio describing the research he did during the summer of 2007.  It's a must-see!  It clocks in at over ten minutes and about 20 MB.  If you'd like to see smaller portions, we've uploaded the movie in two parts on YouTube: Part 1, and Part 2.

One of the other aspects of our lab that we work on is outreach: How to bring superconductivity to a wider audience.  We made a cool movie about a superconducting levitation and suspension demonstration that physics Student Charlie Strehlow worked on.  It's another must-see!  It even has a roller-coaster track.  A lower-quality movie (thus shorter download) is here on YouTube also.  This work was expanded upon by another student, Arnold Kotlyarevsky, with a really cool figure-8 track.  Check it out!

Television Appearances

My lab has been fortunate enough to be featured on a couple of television shows and interviewed for the radio.

On Nov. 9 2011, our outreach demonstrations were featured on The Colbert Report!   You can check out the segment here.

In May 2013, we were featured on the Travel Channel in a program about roller coasters of the future.  Will they levitate above and suspend beneath the track?  Find out here.

We were also interviewed on local radio WHCU about superconductivity.  You can hear the interview here.

We were featured on a segment about levitation for the media outlet mic.com.  Check out their video.

Will we have hovercars and hoverboards?  Check out our answer, see the DeLorean, and watch Marty McFly on his hoverboard.