Research Experience for Undergraduates

The department has created an 8-10 weeks Undergraduate Summer Research program explicitly for the UCLA Physics and Astronomy department students.  Faculty have defined a number of available research projects.  Please review the projects below. Interested students should download, fill out, and print out this application providing their project preferences.

In addition to the printed application, you will also need to provide:

  • A one-page statement -- a little bit about yourself and your academic and research goals, your motivations, and your interest in doing physics/astronomy research.  You can also optionally provide reasons for your research preferences below.
  • Your unofficial transcript.
  • A resume/CV that includes coursework, lab skills, and coding proficiencies.
  • A letter of recommendation (sent separately to queval@physics.ucla.edu) from a faculty advisor.

Printed applications and accompanying documents are due on April 13, 2018 and should be handed to Françoise Queval in PAB 1-707A before that date. Results will be announced shortly afterwards. A stipend will be provided but the cost of housing must be borne by the students.

Neurophysics:
Faculty: Mayank Mehta

Project:
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.


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.

Faculty: Walter Gekelman

Project: TBA


Soft Condensed Matter
Faculty: Gary Williams

We will hopefully be running a new experiment concerning superfluid helium films adsorbed on carbon nanotubes.  We have seen a very interesting new effect, oscillations in the thermal expansion coefficient of the films, and are just now putting together further studies of the effect.

Faculty: Thomas Mason

Students will analyze trajectories of probe particles and molecules in systems that exhibit both active and passive behavior for microrheology and imaging experiments. This will entail computational/theoretical work using existing experimental data sets that we have. A strong candidate would have programming experience (preference for Mathematica, Matlab, C/C++).


Atomic Physics
Faculty: Eric Hudson

Project: Search for Sterile Neutrinos using ultracold radioactive particles: The student will assist in laser cooling and trapping of radioactive Cs-131 atoms to be used in a search for Sterile neutrino dark matter.

Faculty: Wes Campbell

Project: Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (AMO). The project will involve locking a laser so that its optical frequency follows the resonance of a stable reference cavity.


Accelerator/Beam Physics
Faculty: Pietro Musumeci

Project: Professor Musumeci offers two projects:

Project #1: CBB: Online benchmarking of high brightness electron source beamline with particle tracking simulations. The summer student will be fully involved in the Center for Bright Beams research activities. In this research project, the goal will be to develop a tool to provide immediate feedback to the operation of the UCLA Pegasus beamline. The UCLA Pegasus is a high brightness RF photo-injector beamline dedicated to ultrafast electron diffraction and microscopy and to the study of laser-electron interactions. Feeding the online machine parameters into a high fidelity representation of the beamline is required to optimize the beam performances for the various applications.
 
Project #2: STROBE: Ultrafast electron diffraction research. The summer student will get exposed to the research efforts funded by STROBE, NSF Science and Technology Center to promote imaging science. One of the main barrier to improve the temporal resolution in UED beamlines is the uncertainty in the relative time-of-arrival between electron beam and pump laser. This project will seek solutions to this problem in particular using the time-stamping technique where time-of-arrival is independently measured for each shot and images are resorted using this information.


Condensed Matter, Materials and Biological Physics
Faculty: Prof. Jianwei (John) Miao (webpage: www.physics.ucla.edu/research/imaging)

Project #1: Probing Quantum Materials at the Single Atom Level. Prof. Miao has pioneered atomic electron tomography (AET) for determining the 3D positions of individual atoms in materials at ~20 picometer precision. Building upon this groundbreaking development, this project aims to apply AET to probe the 3D atomic structure of quantum materials such as 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). Point defects in TMDs localize excitons and determine the optical properties, while dislocations provide additional topologically protected modes that can dominate over the surface transport. Interlayer coupling in 2D heterostructures affects their optical and electronic properties and has triggered abundant research interests. These nanoscale geometric features significantly affect material properties. In this project, we will use AET to identify the 3D coordinates of all the atoms including all the defects in TMDs and correlate 3D structure with material and quantum properties at the single atom level.

Projects #2: Single Particle Coherent Diffractive Imaging of Viruses. Recent years have witnessed two revolutionary developments in X-ray science. First, a new approach to X-ray crystallography, known as coherent diffractive imaging (CDI), has been developed, allowing structural determination of non-crystalline specimens and nano-crystals with a resolution limited only by the spatial frequency of the diffracted waves. Second, large-scale coherent X-ray sources such as X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) have been under rapid development worldwide. This project aims to combine CDI with XFELs to image single viruses in three dimensions.


Biophysics, especially Neurophysics and Advanced Microscopy
Faculty: Katsushi Arisaka

The Arisaka Lab is investigating brain-wide dynamics of sensory-motor integration, in order to understand how our brains perceive space-time and navigate wisely.  We are observing all 302 neurons of freely-navigating C. Elegans by newly developed ultra-fast 4D optical microscopes with Virtual Reality.   We also investigate human’s visual pathway, by combining Virtual Reality, eye motion tracking, and topographic EEG detections.  


High energy astrophysics and dark matter detection
Faculty: Rene Ong

There are two possible topics for summer research, depending the student's interest and background.

Project #1: Development and testing of high-speed scintillation counters. The GAPS balloon instrument is searching for antimatter as a possible signature for dark matter decays. UCLA is responsible for a large time-of-flight system that has precision timing.  The time-of-flight is measured by signals in long scintillation counters, read out by silicon-PMTs.  The research will consist of building the counters and studying their properties, testing the silicon-PMTs in a dark box to study their performance, and debugging the preamp electronics. The properties of the test counters will be compared to a detailed simulation of the detector components - the simulation work will require some knowledge of C++.

BProject #2: Study of high-energy transient events in the VERITAS data. VERITAS is a ground-based gamma-ray telescopes that operates in the TeV energy range.  The project involves the analysis of data taken by VERITAS to study possible coincidence events between VERITAS and other multi-messenger facilities (e.g. IceCube) and to design and implement a blind search for rapid bursts of photons that are spatially coincident, to search for phenomena such as primordial black holes or astrophysics bursting sources.  Some knowledge of C++/Python would useful.


Astrophysics
Faculty: Steve Furlanetto

Project: Testing Theoretical Models of The First Galaxies. During the first several hundred million years of the Universe’s history, the very first luminous sources formed - exotic stars that seeded the later formation of galaxies. In this summer project, you’ll explore the properties of these early galaxies. With a combination of analytic galaxy models, mock observations, and advanced statistical techniques, you’ll use cutting-edge tools to examine how recent and forthcoming observations can constrain their properties and, most interestingly, whether they can find evidence for the exotic populations we expect.

Faculty: Smadar Naoz

Project: Gravitational Wave emission from binaries in globular clusters that hosts an intermediate-mass black hole. The project will focus on the long-term dynamical evolution of stellar black hole binaries in a globular cluster that host intermediate-mass black hole. It will entail running a large set of Monte-Carlo simulations and analyze them.
Knowledge of c programming Hamiltonian formalism is highly encouraged.