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 14-August 20, 2021. Please download and fill out the application here. The application deadline is March 19, 2021. 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 queval@physics.ucla.edu) from faculty.
Place all these documents including the application form in a folder and compress them in a single zip file.

Programs for 2021

Astronomy
Faculty: R. Michael Rich

Available projects: Astronomy - Galactic and Extragalactic (can employ 2 students)

  • Study of binary stars and interesting binary star candidates from the Zwicky Transient Factory using a remotely operated telescope; collaboration with Dr. Sebastien Lepine (Georgia State) and/or Dr. Shri Kulkarni (Caltech)
  • Robotic operations of remotely operated telescope
  • A search for circumgalactic low level H-alpha emission in nearby galaxies

Faculty: Steven Furlanetto

Project: Theoretical astrophysics. One of the key transformations in the Universe’s history is chemical enrichment: the Big Bang produces only hydrogen and helium, with heavier elements appearing only later through star formation. It is thought that winds driven by rapid star formation spread these elements throughout the Universe, but the era in which this enrichment occurred is unknown. In this project, a student will use state-of-the-art models of the earliest generations of galaxies to estimate the extent of the enrichment and compare to observations of the distribution of intergalactic enrichment.

Faculty: Andrea Ghez
Project: TBD

Faculty: Tuan Do/Bernie Boscoe

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: Smadar Naoz

The effects of supernova kicks on the neutron star distribution at the heart of galaxies. Description: Massive stars undergo supernova explosions and end their lives as either black holes or neutron stars. Recent observations have suggested that neutron stars and perhaps even black holes receive large velocity kicks at birth. Such natal kicks and the sudden mass-loss can significantly alter the orbital configuration of the system. Sudden mass loss can cause a rapid change of the mass ratio, but more importantly, it can change the eccentricity of the inner and outer orbit due to a supernova kick. The kick changes not only the velocity magnitude but also its direction. We will follow a population of massive stars at the heart of galaxies and will determine the post-kick distribution of these objects. Observations suggest a dearth of pulsars in the center of our own galaxy. We will thus explore if supernova kick can contribute to that.

Skills: Coding skills and knowledge on post-main sequence stellar evolution is needed for this project.

Faculty: Smadar Naoz/Santiago Torres

The fate of comets in stellar clusters: The dynamical evolution of planetary systems in a stellar cluster is dominated by the gravitational interaction with nearby stars and the cluster potential. Close stellar encounters during the early evolutionary phases of planetary systems in a stellar cluster can lead to the destruction of debris disks and the ejection of comets or asteroids into interstellar space. The fate of these ejected bodies will then be determined by the surrounding gravitational field. To understand its impact, we will study the formation and orbital evolution of comets in stellar clusters: can they get captured by other planetary systems, or are they ejected into the interstellar space?

Skills: Coding skills, statistics and knowledge in orbital dynamics.


Beam Physics
Faculty: James Rosenzweig

Ultra-High Field Acceleration: The Particle Beam Physics Laboratory is now exploring the miniaturization of particle accelerators from the multi-km length scale down to instruments that can be placed in university labs. The two most compelling incarnations of this drive to reinvent the accelerators, using very high field cryogenic techniques, are found in frontier linear colliders for particle physics discovery, and the X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL). We are planning to create the first ultra-compact XFEL at UCLA (see https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1367-2630/abb16c/meta) , with the opening of the new SAMURAI Lab. The first critical steps require a fundamental understanding of the interactions between cryogenic materials as ultra-high electric and magnetic fields.


Condensed Matter
Faculty: Christopher Gutiérrez

Remote research projects in the Quantum Matter Design Studio (1 student): (1) Protecting sensitive quantum measurements from earthquakes: Atomic-scale quantum imaging measurements require ultra-low vibrations. However, being located in a seismically-active area like Los Angeles can affect the length of time (and thus the level of detail) of such measurements. In this project, we look to devise a scheme to use active-monitoring accelerometers to continuously measure ground vibrations to prevent damage to sensitive long-term atomic imaging measurements. (2) Calculating electronic properties of hybrid atom-2D systems: When atoms are adsorbed on the surface of 2D materials (like graphene), electrons can scatter off the adatoms and create long-range supermodulations that can dramatically change the electronic properties of the 2D host material. In this project we look to calculate the electronic and topological properties of graphene systems for different species of adatoms and adatom geometries.


Neurophysics
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 1: Quantum 3D imaging of the proton and nucleus. The theoretical study and experimental exploration of the internal structure of the proton and the nucleus are of fundamental importance to science and have recently entered a new exciting phase. In the past decades, an understanding of the proton in terms of the fundamental quarks and gluons, the degrees of freedom of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), has successfully emerged. In the last few years, theoretical breakthroughs have paved the way for extracting both the longitudinal and transverse motion of partons inside the proton. Such information, referred to as quantum 3D imaging of the proton, is encoded in the concept of “transverse momentum dependent parton distribution functions” (TMD PDFs). In this project, we will analyze the vast experimental data within a global analysis theoretical framework to extract some novel TMD PDFs.

Project 2: Machine learning for jet physics. Modern machine learning techniques have been rapidly applied to high energy nuclear and particle physics these days. In this project, we will apply machine learning tools as a data-driven approach to understand the properties of jets. Jets are collimated spray of particles that are initiated by highly accelerated quarks or gluons. Understanding the origin of the jet, i.e, whether it is initiated by quarks or gluons, is very useful in the study of high energy nuclear and particle physics. For example, quark and gluon jets have different interactions when they propagate through the hot and dense nuclear medium, i.e. quark-gluon plasma. Quark and gluon jets also have quite different spin dynamics and correlations. We will apply machine learning techniques to achieve the goal of distinguishing quark from gluon jets.


Plasma Physics
Faculty: Troy Carter

Research opportunities at the Basic Plasma Science Facility:
(1) Help develop an automated way to derive line averaged plasma density measurements from microwave interferometry on the Large Plasma Device. Utilize arduino or equivalent to turn phase output from the interferometer (count "fringes") into a line-average density measurement versus time.
(2) Develop hardware and software for visible light monitoring of the plasma discharge and in-vessel components, in particular the large LaB6 thermionic cathode plasma source.
(3) Integrate routine spectroscopic measurements into data acquisition. There are several small USB spectrometers monitoring visible light emission as well as larger monochromators monitoring individual emission lines. We would like to integrate this data into the "houseke


Solid State
Faculty: HongWen Jiang

Project: Semiconductor Quantum Dot Qubits. Semiconductor quantum dots are a leading approach for the implementation of solid-state based qubits for quantum computation. In this project, the summer student will join the researchers in the group to perform quantum processing tomography of a novel quantum dot qubit that is encoded by two valley states in silicon.


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