Nicholas Sterling, Ph.D.

Prof. Sterling grew up in St. Paul, MN and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a double B.S. in physics-astronomy and mathematics. He received a Ph. D. in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, and has had postdoctoral fellowships at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Michigan State University. He taught physics at Valparaiso University (Indiana) before joining the University of West Georgia in August 2013. 

Research Interests 

Prof. Sterling studies planetary nebulae, the gaseous ejecta of dying low-mass stars (1-8 times the Sun’s mass). He uses spectroscopy to study the chemical composition of planetary nebulae, in order to understand how elements are formed in low-mass stars. From observations with 3−10 meter telescopes in the US, Chile, and Spain, he has discovered and analyzed emission lines from some of the rarest elements in the Universe, including selenium, krypton, rubidium, cadmium, tellurium and xenon. In addition to his observational research, Prof. Sterling studies the atomic properties of heavy element ions via state-of-the-art computer calculations and (previously) experimental measurements conducted at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

His research is currently funded by an NSF grant to investigate how atomic ions capture electrons (a process called recombination) in astrophysical plasmas, and a NASA Georgia Space Grant Consortium award to promote diversity and inclusion in physics and astronomy through undergraduate research opportunities.  On the observational side, Prof. Sterling has recently been awarded time on the 8.1-meter Gemini South and 8.2-meter Very Large Telescopes in Chile to study planetary nebulae in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies.

Dr. Sterling encourages students interested in astronomy or atomic physics research to contact him. He is proud to supervise several undergraduate research students each year, most of whom present research results at state and/or national conferences. 

Spring 2022 Sections

Fall 2021 Sections

Spring 2021 Sections

Fall 2020 Sections

Spring 2020 Sections

  • PHYS-2212 (Principles of Physics II) Section: 01
  • PHYS-2212 (Principles of Physics II) Section: 02
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02

Fall 2019 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02
  • PHYS-4513 (Mathematical Physics) Section: 01
  • PHYS-4984 (Physics Seminar) Section: 01W

Spring 2019 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02
  • PHYS-4103 (Astrophysics) Section: 01

Fall 2018 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02
  • PHYS-3503 (Modern Physics) Section: 01W
  • PHYS-4984 (Physics Seminar) Section: 01W

Spring 2018 Sections

  • PHYS-2212 (Principles of Physics II) Section: 01
  • PHYS-2212 (Principles of Physics II) Section: 02
  • PHYS-2212 (Principles of Physics II) Section: 03
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02

Fall 2017 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: L2R
  • PHYS-4513 (Mathematical Physics) Section: 01

Spring 2017 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 01
  • PHYS-4103 (Astrophysics) Section: 01

Fall 2016 Sections

  • PHYS-1112 (Introductory Physics II) Section: 01
  • PHYS-1112 (Introductory Physics II) Section: 02
  • PHYS-1112 (Introductory Physics II) Section: 03
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: L2R
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: LXR

Spring 2016 Sections

  • PHYS-1111 (Introductory Physics I) Section: 01
  • PHYS-1111 (Introductory Physics I) Section: 02
  • PHYS-1111 (Introductory Physics I) Section: 03
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 01
  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 25H

Fall 2015 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02
  • PHYS-4513 (Mathematical Physics) Section: 01

Spring 2015 Sections

  • ASTR-2313 (Astronomy) Section: 02
  • PHYS-3521 (Experimental Physics II) Section: 01W