The Happy Physical Chemist

Tanya Mikulas plays with lasers on a cluttered lab bench. Laser ablation to create a prototype of a novel boron nitride contact mask,, Tanya Mikulas, 2010
Laser ablation of boron nitride contact mask, Tanya Mikulas, 2010


Doctor of Philosophy, Physical Chemistry, May 2015
The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Master of Science, Physical Chemistry, August 2012
The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Bachelor of Science, Physics, minor in Mathematics, May 2008
Augusta State University (now Augusta University), Augusta, GA

Automotive Technology, August 1994-December 1995, Madison Area Technical College, Madison, WI


PhD research:

  • Predicted physical properties of target molecules using computational modelling approaches.
  • Conducted quantum chemical calculations using high-performance computing resources.
  • Collected, organized, analyzed, and interpreted data sets.
  • Investigated electronic structures of lanthanide+OF2 and lanthanide+H2O reaction products using theoretical methods, calculated binding energies, and validated results with experimental values.
  • Evaluated theoretical hybrid organic/inorganic benzene-like materials for chemical hydrogen fuel storage by performing high accuracy thermodynamic calculations.
  • My dissertation

MS research:

  • Fabricated thin films using chemical vapor deposition and Langmuir-Blodgett techniques.
  • Characterized thin films using conductivity and cyclic voltammetry measurements, atomic force microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.
  • Verified molecular structures using nuclear magnetic resonance.
  • Imaged gold nanoparticles using transmission electron microscopy.
  • Prototyped a novel boron nitride contact mask.
  • Deciphered crystal structures using X-ray diffraction and SHELX.


  • September 2015 – February 2016, Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Iowa Graduate College, Iowa City, IA
  • August 2008 – May 2015, Graduate Teaching/Research Assistant, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
  • May 2006 – February 2008, Director of Technology, Wheelchairs Plus Mobility Solutions, Augusta, GA
  • December 2000 – July 2005, Workforce Management Administrator, Sitel Corporation, Augusta, GA
  • August 1994 – July 2000, Assistant Director of Information Services, Union Cab of Madison, Madison, WI

PUBLICATIONS (link opens publications in new page)



  • Properties of Lanthanide Oxyfluorides, OLnF and OLnF2, Poster, American Chemical Society National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 2013.
  • Experiments in Unimolecular Rectification, Poster and talk, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, International Conference on Synthetic Metals Symposium, Nara, Japan, June 2010.
  • Computational Model of a Leaky Pendulum, Presentation, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Day, Augusta State University, Augusta GA, April 2007.

Video of me building the giant leaky pendulum: 

At first, it may seem like a silly project, but the leaky pendulum has been around since it was published by Mires and Peters in 1993 in the American Journal of Physics, and is an interesting problem. My calculated results, which relied on both past and future Θ, were in reasonable agreement with the data obtained from the giant leaky pendulum. A smaller model was built initially, but it was difficult to obtain reliable measurements. Plus, the larger one was just more fun – it made a harmless mess. A pressure sensor threaded down the tube was used to measure the volume of water as it was draining, and a straw taped to the top passed through a gate to give a nice signal for the period. Here is a more recent discussion from physics stack exchange about the math.


  • Full Moon Emerging Artist, Kentuck Art Center, Northport, AL, 2012
  • Operations Management International Scholarship, CH2M, Augusta, GA, 2005


  • Desktop applications: Microsoft Office, open source CAD, GIMP, Photoshop
  • Operating systems: Windows (95-XP, 7, 8) Macintosh (7.5-10.4), Linux, UNIX
  • Mathematical software: Maple, Mathcad, Matlab, Origin, Mathematica
  • Electronics: PSpice, Labview, Arduino
  • Computational Chemistry: Spartan, Gaussian, Molpro, ADF
  • Programming languages: C++, Java

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