Dr. Wayne Trail

Dr. Wayne Trail is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU). He specializes in Atomic and Molecular Physics.


1983 – B.S. Physics, Purdue University

1987 – M.S. Physics, University of Oklahoma

1991 – Ph.D. Theoretical Atomic Physics, University of Oklahoma

2012 – Began teaching at SWOSU


  • Research: As Faculty Sponsor for SWOSU Physics Club (2014-2021) I have led my students in many  research projects.  I spend ten to twenty hours per week working with my students on research and projects.
    • Research and ongoing projects in (2021-2022):
      1. Each year the Physics Club presents posters at SWOSU Research Day, Oklahoma Research Day, and at the nearest regional meeting of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).  This year we did a joint poster with Dr. Aracena in Biology on the effects of large accelerations on fruit flies, by launching them in high power rockets.  We also did a poster on the effect of the shape of the leading edge of a rocket fin on the performance of the rocket—using rockets made with a 3D printer.
      2. Last spring (2021) the SWOSU Physics Club Rocketry Team competed in the Argonia Cup in Argonia, Kansas.  The Argonia Cup is a rocketry competition among college teams.  The challenge is to build a rocket that carries a payload (a golf ball) to at least 8000 feet (1.5 miles) and successfully returns it (the golf ball) to a specified location (an ‘X’) on the ground.  There were over 20 universities competing including OU, OSU, the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, University of Tennessee, University of West Virginia, and more.  We chose to use an on-board quadcopter to be deployed by the rocket at a specified altitude during descent and then flown by radio control to the location on the ground.  Only a handful of teams were able to get the golf ball to the ground without a crash. The SWOSU team finished in second place.  We will return this year.
        This project makes considerable demands in understanding of the physics of rocketry and flight, complex flight electronics, remote sensing, programmable GPS, first-person video, munitions and propellants, and more.  Last year one student and I earned ham radio licenses in the course of this work.  Several students earned level 1 and level 2 certifications from the Tripoli Rocketry Association, a federally acknowledged rocketry organization.
      3. Former student Jaxon Taylor and I have built a remotely accessible telescope and placed it on the roof of CPP.  This telescope can be operated remotely via the Internet so students can do experiments in astronomy and astrophysics from their dorm rooms rather than being at the observatory extremely late at night.  We are exploring making it programmable so that we can assign it jobs overnight as is done at scientific observatories.  We will use it for a wide range of projects including studying supernovae, comets, variable stars, exoplanets, and more.  It has a dedicated notebook computer (which is accessed via Google Remote Desktop), two onboard cameras (one for tracking and one for photography), a polar alignment scope, and other electronics.  We will use astrophotography, photometry, and spectroscopy in this work.
      4. We are continuing the conversion of some of our older (unusable) telescopes into more modern (and usable) dobsonian telescopes.  This project has continued for several years.
    • Research and Ongoing projects (2020-2021):
      1. We continue to work on our grant through Madeline Baugher and the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium.  We are developing high powered model rockets to participate in an open competition among 10-20 Universities.  In this work we are developing rockets to surpass to 8000 feet, carrying a payload that is to be delivered to a specified location on the ground.  This project has consumed a good bit of our club’s energy.
        Despite Covid-19, we met all of our goals for that project in its first year: We built a rocket and flew it to over 8000 feet, decided on a delivery vehicle that the rocket deploys, and began discussions on the details of the deployment and delivery specifications.
        We began development of the delivery vehicle, a quadcopter, which is carried inside the rocket then released.
        This year we are building and programming the quadcopter based on designs on the Internet and on out requirements for the project.  We are building a slightly larger rocket to accommodate the quadcopter more easily.  We are training quadcopter pilots and new rocket builders, and we are testing quadcopter-deployment options for the rocket to release the quadcopter.  The competition is the last weekend in March.
      2. The Dobsonian Telescope project was cut short by the covid-19 pandemic.  I believe we would have finished the project by May, but we just could not work on it, and it is a multi-person endeavor.  I am continuing that project this year, but the students who drove the project both graduated, so I am not sure how it is going to go.
      3. Last year we developed a partnership with Roman Nose State Park to do public observation sessions in which we brought several telescopes to the park and walaked the out to a remote area for observations. It was a big hit, we did about one per month and usually had around 50 visitors.  We stopped for the pandemic and have not restarted.  I believe we will restart when we are cleared to do so.
      4. We have also stopped our variable star work for similar reasons, but we are working on a way to do that and still social distance.


Email: wayne.trail@swosu.edu Office Number: CPP 104
Phone Number: 580-774-3124


ASTRO 1904 Astronomy
PHY 1063 Basic Physics
PHY 1044/L Basic Physics I/Lab
PHY 1054/L Basic Physics II/Lab
SCI 1503 Concepts of Physical Science
SCI 1501 Concepts of Physical Science Lab


PHY 2021 Intro to Engineering Physics
PHY 2145/L General Physics I/Lab
PHY 2155/L General Physics II/Lab


Faculty Sponsor for SWOSU Physics Club

SWOSU Physics Rocketry Team


M. A. Morrison, W. Sun, W. A. Isaacs, and W. K. Trail, “Ultra-simple calculation of very-low-energy momentum-transfer and rotational-excitation cross sections: e-N2 scattering’’ {Australian Journal of Physics  50, 441 (1997). 

G. Danby, B. K. Elza, M. A. Morrison, and W. K. Trail “Separable Representation of Exchange in Electron-Molecule Scattering” J. Phys. B 29, 2665 (1996). 

W. Sun, M. A. Morrison, W. A. Isaacs, W. K. Trail, D. T. Alle, R. J. Gulley, M. J. Brennan, and S. J. Buckman “Detailed Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of e-N2 Scattering” Phys. Rev. A 52 1229, (1995).

H.-L. Zhou, B. L. Whitten, W. K. Trail, M. A. Morrison, K. Bartschat, K. B. MacAdam, D. W. Norcross, “Low-Energy Electron Collisions with Sodium: Scattering of Spin-Polarized Electrons” Phys. Rev. A 52 1152, (1995). 

W. K. Trail, M. A. Morrison, H.-L. Zhou, B. L. Whitten, K. Bartschat, K. B. MacAdam, T. L. Goforth, D. W. Norcross, “Low-Energy Electron Collisions with Sodium: Elastic and Inelastic Scattering from the Ground State” Phys. Rev. A49, 3620 (1994). 

Michael A. Morrison and Wayne K. Trail, “The Importance of Bound-free Correlation Effects for Vibrational Excitation of Molecules by Electron Impact: A Sensitivity Analysis” Phys. Rev. A, 48, 2874-2886 (1993).