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About Robert J. Brecha

I was born and raised in Ohio, and graduated from Wilmington High School. Through an interest in astronomy, I decided to study physics at Wright State University, graduating with Honors in 1983. While at Wright State I began working as a teaching assistant and in a laser physics research lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Starting in 1983, I began work toward a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Texas at Austin in the Quantum Optics lab of Prof. Jeff Kimble. After finishing my Ph.D. in 1990, I was a post-doctoral researcher for two years at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics near Munich, Germany.
Since 1993, I have been in the Physics Department at the University of Dayton, where I focused my research on laser spectroscopy of molecular oxygen, and continued theoretical quantum optics research. During the academic year 2000-2001 I spent a sabbatical with the group of Massimo Inguscio at the European Laboratory for Nonlinear Optics in Florence, Italy doing research on Bose condensates and degenerate Fermi gases.
After that sabbatical, my research interests slowly began to change toward energy and climate change. For four years, beginning in 2006, I held the Bro. Leonard Mann Chair in the Natural Sciences at UD, and together with colleagues, established the Sustainability, Energy and Environment (SEE) Minor and Program, an interdisciplinary collaboration across units and departments at the university. Also in 2006, I was a guest at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) for the first time, a position I have been fortunate to be able to continue each summer since then. The 2010-2011 academic year was spent at PIK, partially funded by a Fulbright Fellowship, working in the Sustainable Solutions research group headed by Prof. Dr. Ottmar Edenhofer. I have also been a member of the University of Dayton Renewable and Clean Energy Master’s Degree Program, administered through the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

My most recent focus has been on issues of energy, fossil resources and global climate change. My focus is on reconciling optimistic views of large resources in the ground, and potentially available for future combustion, with many signs of apparent scarcity seen over the past decade. This disparity has
consequences for the perceived ease or difficulty with which climate-change mitigation policies can be implemented. Along these same lines, there is an open debate in the literature as to the costs of leaving resources in the ground vs. the danger of making changes to the earth’s climate. I have developed a collaboration with the Sustainable Solutions Group at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), where natural scientists and economists are investigating scenarios for mitigating climate change through transitions to a more sustainable energy system.
Further research projects in progress at PIK include investigation of the implications for long-term energy system investment decisions due to the characteristics of fluctuating renewable energy sources, and looking at sustainable development indicators under climate-change mitigation scenarios. Another recent line of research was to investigate through integrated assessment modeling the importance, or lack thereof, of nuclear power in climate change mitigation effectiveness. Each of these projects is in collaboration with graduate students and other researchers at PIK.
Another topic of current research with colleagues and students at UD is in the area of building energy use. We have been investigating the use of utility data as a means to characterize residences and other buildings, and then use that information to prioritize measures to improve energy efficiency of the buildings.
American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, International Association of Energy Economics, American Geophysical Union, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Energy Policy, Energy and Environmental Science, Climatic Change, Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A, Applied Physics B, Optics Express, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, Environmental Research Letters


1993 - Present Professor, University of Dayton Department of Physics
Present Sustainability, Energy and the Environment Initiative Coordinator, University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences

Curriculum Vitae

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  • PHY 299/PHY 220 – Environmental Physics; course for (mostly) Mechanical Engineering students
  • PHY 105 – Physical Science – Energy and the Environment; introductory course for Business students
  • PHY 108 – Physics of Light and Color; introductory course for Fine Arts and Business students
  • ASI 320 – Cities and Energy; team-taught General Education course
  • BIO 359 – Sustainable Biosphere (with Carl Friese, BIO)
  • ASI 346 – Physics and Literature (with Alex Tuss, ENG)
  • ASI 341 – Archaeology of a Neighborhood (with Dennie Eagleson, VAF)
  • SEE 250 – Introduction to Sustainability, Energy and the Environment (with Michelle Pautz, POL)
  • SEE 301 – Global Change and Earth Systems (with Carl Friese, BIO)
  • SEE 303 – Constructions of Place
  • EOP 501 – Optical Radiation and Matter; graduate core-course for Electro-optics Program
  • EOP 502 – Lasers; graduate core-course for Electro-üptics Program
  • MEE 590/RCL 564 – Sustainable Energy Systems
  • PHY 206/207/208 – General Physics; Introductory calculus-based Physics courses
  • PHY 301 - Thermodynamics
  • PHY 333 – Electronics
  • PHY 401 – Optics


1990 PhD, University of Texas at Austin
1983 BS, Wright State University ‐ Physics

Contact Information

Phone: 937-229-2727


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Recent Works (1)