REU 2017

Accelerator Science

Faculty: Pietro Musumeci

Project: The REU student will be involved in a newly founded  NSF Science and Technology Center to promote imaging science. By combining the progress in ultrafast laser technology and our improved understanding of photocathode physics and beam dynamics our goal is to develop the first time-resolved electron microscope capable of acquiring single shot images with picosecond temporal resolution and nanometer spatial resolution. The student will be expected to participate in the ongoing activities and make experimental and/or theoretical contributions to the project.


Faculty: Eric Hudson

Project: Quantum coherence limits of molecular ion qubits. We are developing a method for producing ultracold molecular ions for use as qubits. This project will involve laser cooling of neutral atoms and ions. Familiarity with these topics, as well as basic quantum mechanics, are preferred.


Faculty: Michael Fitzgerald

Projects: There are two possible projects.  (1) The student will work on reduction and analysis of high-contrast polarimetry data from the Gemini Planet Imager.  The aim is to get high signal-to-noise ratio detections of light scattered by circumstellar debris.  This will involve using the data reduction pipeline to optimize parameters for reduction of data.  It will also involve tuning of algorithms designed to suppress the residual stellar point-spread function. (2) The student will work to develop a simulation of a lenslet-based integral field spectrometer and apply it to optimally extract data from the Gemini Planet Imager.  The extraction algorithm will be tuned to maximize the signal to noise of exoplanet spectra hidden in the data.

Faculty: Andrea Ghez

Project: Black Hole and Its Environment at the Galactic Center: High resolution images of the center of our Galaxy with the world's largest telescopes are giving us an unprecedented view of a supermassive black hole and its environs. Through precision measurement of stellar orbits we aim to address many fundamental questions about the formation and evolution of black holes and galaxies. Possible summer projects include studies of (1) how the observed young stars arrived in this region in which no young stars were expected, (2) how this region was depleted of giants, which were predicted to exist in large numbers, (3) searches for micro-lensing events and (4) simulations of observations with future large ground-based telescopes.

Faculty: Tuan Do

Project: Galactic center research. A more complete description is forthcoming. The center of the Milky Way Galaxy represents one of the most extreme astrophysical environments in the nearby Universe, with a supermassive black hole of 4 million solar masses and stellar density greater than 1 million stars per cubic parsec. Given its proximity, we can study the effects of such extreme environments on star formation and the long term interaction between stars and a supermassive black hole in detail. The advent of adaptive optics in the past decade has provided us with the means to obtain imaging and spectroscopy of individual stars even in this crowded region. The interested student will use data from the Keck telescopes to study the stellar population and star formation history around the supermassive black hole at the Galactic center.

Faculty: Alice Shapley

Project: The student will analyze and model near-infrared spectroscopic data from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey. MOSDEF is a large Keck project studying the properties of galaxies during the peak epoch of star formation in the Universe (i.e., ~10 billion years ago). The goals of the project will be to compare observed emission-line properties of galaxies with photoionization models in order to determine the physical properties that prevailed in star-forming regions in the early universe (which appear to be quite distinct from those in the universe today). No particular expertise required, though facility with programming in IDL or Python is desirable.

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Faculty; Wes Campbell

Project: Experimental Atomic, Molecular, and Optical (AMO) Physics. There is a need for simple, robust techniques for trapping atomic ions with tight confinement for quantum computing and quantum simulations.  The student working on this project will be exploring novel approaches to ion trap construction and operation that have advantages over traditional techniques.

Beam Physics

Faculty: James Rosenzweig

Project: TBA.

Condensed Matter

Faculty: Jianwei (John) Miao

Project: The REU student will be involved in the new NSF Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging, which aims to tackle major scientific challenges by improving imaging technology. The student will participate in a project on probing physical properties of materials at the single-atom level [see our recent papers for details:  J. Miao, P. Ercius and S. J. L. Billinge, “Atomic electron tomography: 3D structures without crystals”, Science 353, aaf2157 (2016); Y. Yang, et al. “Deciphering chemical order/disorder and material properties at the single-atom level”, Nature 542, 75-79 (2017)].

Faculty: Stuart Brown

Project: The project involves magnetic resonance technique development and application in the area of quantum materials. Our laboratory focus is on correlated electron systems and frustrated quantum magnets, which are generally known for tunable ground states, controlled by an external parameter such as high pressure or magnetic field. In this project, the REU student will be engaged in developing and applying a new control method to be used in combination with magnetic resonance probes, namely uniaxial strain applied quasi-continuously using piezoelectric devices.

Faculty: Hector Ochoa de Eguileor and Yaroslav Tservyonak

Project: Spin pumping in electronic membranes. The scope of this project is the interplay between the geometry and the electronic properties of a quasi-2D material. More specifically, we are interested in systems with a strong spin-orbit coupling, like monolayers of transition-metal dichalcogenides. In a recent work [Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 026801 (2017)], we analyzed the emergence of geometrical gauge fields induced by the curvature in these materials and their consequences in the spectral and transport properties. In that case, the geometry of the membrane remained as a static background. Our aim now is to study the generation of spin-polarized currents through time-varying corrugations and their reciprocal backaction on the structural properties. We will pay special attention to the dynamics of topological defects (disclinations and edge dislocations). The final goal is to propose a full-electrical measurement configuration to detect these dynamical effects in a mechanical resonator.


Faculty: Mayank Mehta


1) Hardware+software: Developing hardware and software to measure neural signals in natural and virtual reality from live rats.  Must have some lab experience with digital electronics (e.g. microcontrollers),  and  programing in C.
2) Computation: Develop computational and theoretical techniques to decipher neural responses, and neural rhythms from the live brain of rats.  Should be proficient with either Python or Matlab (preferably Matlab), laboratory experience doing analysis of experimental data, ideally neurobiological data.
Research in our lab focuses on the rapidly emerging field of Neurophysics. The key question here is: How do large ensembles of neurons learn and remember information about the physical world? Recent advances in physics, computer science and neurobiology has put us much closer to addressing this fundamental and long standing question.  Our laboratory combines techniques from these diverse academic fields, including both experimental and theoretical approaches, to tackle this challenge.

Our recent research has focused on understanding how ensembles of neurons form a mental representation of space and time. To address this goal, we measure neural responses from freely behaving behaving rodents without causing much injury to their brain or health. To manipulate their perception of space and time we use state of the art virtual reality system for rats. We also study neural responses during sleep, which influence perception of space-time during behavior. We develop hardware and software to measure neural signals in natural and virtual reality, and we develop computational techniques to decipher the responses we measure in the laboratory and develop mathematical theories to understand the emergent neural dynamics.

Neurophysics, biophysics, optics

Faculty: Katsushi Arisaka

Project: Sensorimotor Integration in C. elegans Navigation. We are interested in how the neural network of a small animal processes external stimulations and make a prompt decision wisely to navigate its environment for survival. For this purpose, we are developing an advanced optical microscope to observe the entire 302 neurons of freely behaving C. elegans.   The REU student will participate in designing, construction and operation of the microscope.  At the same, we will develop mathematical models describing C. elegans’ spatial navigation.  The ultimate goal is to define a complete set of non-linear differential equations which can predict and reproduce all types of observed  C. elegans behaviors, analogous to a Virtual Worm living in Virtual Reality.

Nuclear physics

Faculty: Huan Z. Huang/Gang Wang

Project: Study of Heavy Quark Interaction with QCD Matter: QCD partonic matter at extremely high temperature and energy density has been created in Au+Au collisions at Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). We will study heavy quark (Charm and Bottom) interactions with the QCD matter in central Au+Au collisions. Heavy quarks are produced mostly through the gluon-gluon fusion process during the initial impact of the colliding nuclei. After the initial production heavy quarks may scatter off partons in the QCD matter and suffer energy losses while traversing the QCD matter via gluon radiation or elastic scattering. We will investigate experimentally signatures of these heavy quark interactions with the QCD matter.

Plasma Physics

Faculty: Troy Carter

Project: The REU student would participate in research projects using the Basic Plasma Science Facility, an NSF and DOE funded national user facility for fundamental plasma science.  Possible projects include:  (1) Studying the interaction between pressure-gradient driven turbulence and large-scale mean flows in a magnetized plasma.  In magnetic-confinement fusion devices, this interaction regulates cross-field transport of heat, particles and momentum.  (2) Studying parametric instabilities of shear Alfven waves.  In astrophysical plasmas such as stellar winds and accretion disks, turbulence is mediated by nonlinear interactions among shear Alfven waves; parametric instabilities may play an important role in these settings.