Research Experience for Undergraduates

The Physics & Astronomy Department has created a ten-week Undergraduate Summer Research program, open only to UCLA students in the Physics & Astronomy Department, to be held June 13-August 19, 2022. Please download and fill out the application here. The application deadline is March 18, 2022. Faculty will define a number of available research projects.

In addition to the printed application, you are asked to provide:

  • A one-page statement 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.
  • Your unofficial transcript.
  • A resume/CV that includes coursework, lab skills, and coding proficiencies.
  • A letter of recommendation (sent separately to from faculty.
Place all these documents including the application form in a folder and compress them in a single zip file.

Programs for 2022

Faculty: Wes Campbell

Project: Design and construction of a sun tracker that maximally couples sunlight into a single mode optical fiber as the earth spins, delivering that light onto a trapped ion in the lab.

Faculty: Tuan Do

Project: Machine learning in astronomy - our group seeks to use machine learning methods to allow for novel ways of examining and analyzing astronomical data. The scale and complexity of astronomical data are growing exponentially, so it is important that our tools and methods grow as well to enable new discoveries. Our group studies both how machine learning is being used in astronomy and applies machine learning methods to challenging astronomical problems. Potential research projects include machine learning in extragalactic astronomy, image recognition and processing, and the study of stars around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Faculty: Mark Morris

Project: Modelling the Morphology of Bipolar Nebulae. At the end of their lives, stars evolve to become red giants, and at the most extreme moment of their red giant evolution, they expel their atmospheres and produce surrounding nebulae. If the star is in a binary system, as most stars are, then the resulting nebula assumes a bipolar geometry, with luminous lobes that reflect starlight, and typically, a dark, optically thick disk. For this project, the summer research student will simulate the dust-scattering lobes by creating a model for the dust distribution that reproduces several of the known bipolar nebulae.

Faculty: Sandra Raimundo

Project: Observing a galaxy with an active supermassive black hole. Active supermassive black holes can affect the gas in their host galaxies. In this project we will analyse observations of a galaxy with an active black hole to determine the gas physical properties and study the effect of the black hole on the gas. This project will involve visualising and analysing state-of-the-art optical observations with MUSE on the Very Large Telescope, which have already been prepared for analysis. The student will be expected to have some previous programming skills (Python is recommended) as the project's tasks will rely heavily on publicly available Python routines and new codes to be written by the student.

Faculty: R. Michael Rich

Project: Identification of high redshift galaxies in Keck spectroscopy with KCWI. The work is in collaboration with an international team led by Michael Rich and Emanuele Daddi (CEA Saclay, Paris, France).

Subject: We have observed 9 galaxy groups and clusters at 2 < z < 3.3 with Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI), providing spectroscopy and imaging over a small part of the sky. The project will use these data to identify redshift of galaxies contained in these fields. A fraction of the galaxies will be groups/cluster star-forming members, and will be important to characterize the cluster galaxy population and star formation activities. The KCWI data have already been reduced and are ready for the data analysis.


  • Ddefine galaxy samples for continuum extraction, using the KCWI images and external imaging datasets (software: SExtractor, python)
  • Optimally extract spectra (and estimate noise) using the imaging kernel shapes (software: python, galfit)
  • Measure redshift by cross correlation with templates and identification of absorption/emission lines (software: python)
  • If time permits, search for line emission in the cubes other than at the position of continuum sources (software: python)


Faculty: Smadar Naoz

Project description: We will study the effects of stellar and compact object binaries' disassociation on the dark cusp at the galactic center. Skill needed: Python.

Experimental Physics

Faculty: Christoph Niemann

Project description: Design and construct a two color laser schlieren backlighter und use it to visualize density gradients in laser produced plasmas and in shock waves in an ambient gas.

Faculty: Katsushi Arisaka

Project: We are investigating the physics principle of our visual perception of the external 3D space in the frequency-time domain. The student is expected to combine the visual stimulation by a Virtual Reality headset with brain wave detection by an EEG headset and eye motion tracking by a high-speed camera. Then we will measure the reaction time for various stimulations.

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.

Faculty: Zhongbo Kang

Project: Jet production in exotic states of matter. Description: This project combines two fields of study: atomic, molecular, and optical physics (AMO) on one hand, and nuclear and particle physics on the other hand. It was realized in 2017 that a fundamental behavior related to a phenomenon called “jet” is common to both AMO and nuclear/particle physics. A team from University of Chicago discovered a new phenomenon in which a stimulated Bose-Einstein condensate emits a burst of collimated jets of atoms [Clark, Gaj, Feng and Chin, Nature 551, 356, (2017)]. The behavior of such an AMO jet is very similar to the QCD jets in the existence of quark-gluon plasma. In this project, we intend to develop a theory to describe jet and its propagation in the associated exotic states of matter. We will utilize knowledge in both fields and will describe the experimental data recently observed in the AMO side.

Solid State

Faculty: Stuart Brown

Project: Common to many Quantum Materials is the near degeneracy of competing ground states, and the experimental ability to tune between them by subjecting the system to extreme conditions. Examples of such conditions include high pressure and uniaxial stress. In this project, we will develop an ultrasonic probe of the symmetry properties of quantum materials subjected to uniaxial stress, as a means for identifying the ground state of the system under study.

Theoretical Condensed Matter

Faculty: Rahul Roy

Project: Numerical probes of the quantum Hall effect: the project involves numerical studies of the integer and fractional quantum Hall effects. In the integer case, there is a diverging localization length which leads to an universal exponent associated with the plateau transition. We seek to probe this phenomenon by using an Renormalization Group inspired truncation of the Hilbert space. In the fractional quantum Hall effect, we want to study the influence of quantum band geometry on the stability of the phases by probing a family of models where the symmetry of the interaction is varied. Strong coding skills and a good background in quantum mechanics would be valuable.

Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics

Faculty: Peer Kraus

Project: The project will involve learning about modern techniques in non-perturbative quantum field theory, including the conformal bootstrap and axiomatic based approaches (Osterwalder-Schrader etc). The student will also be working on the applications of complex metrics to quantum field theory and quantum gravity.

Theoretical Plasma Physics

Faculty: George Morales

Project: Ponderomotive effects caused by Alfven waves in multi-ion species plasmas. In fusion and space plasmas the ion component consists of multiple species, e.g. Deuterium-Tritium, or Hydrogen -Helium, respectively. Because of their different cyclotron frequencies, each species experiences a different ponderomotive force when they interact with Alfven waves. A ponderomotive force is an average force exerted by an oscillating electromagnetic field that has a spatial gradient. Because of the different forces, the various species develop different flow patterns that cause a spatial/temporal rearrangement in the species concentration ratio. The project will explore analytically and computationally various consequences of the nonlinearly modified concentration ratios such as the feedback on the propagation of the Alfven waves, and the possibility of manipulating the concentration ratios remotely by a suitable excitation of Alfven waves.

Forthcoming projects TBA

Pietro Musumeci (Accelerator Physics)

Troy Carter (Plasma Physics)

Smadar Naoz (Astronomy)

Christopher Gutierrez (Condensed Matter Physics)

Questions? Contact the Undergraduate office: Françoise Queval, Student Affairs Officer, 1-707A PAB, 310-825-2453.

Previous REU programs: