Physics Department: REU Projects - Astronomy/Astrophysics

Prof. Timothy Beers
Email: tbeers (at)

The Chemical Evolution and Assembly of the Milky Way: Prof. Beers and his group work on exploring the history of the element production in the Universe, making use of stellar probes from large-scale surveys for metal-poor stars, including the recent trove of information from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). For example, studies based on these data have shown recently that the very first generations of massive stars produced copious amounts of light elements, such as carbon and nitrogen. The REU student will become involved with the analysis and inspection of the stellar spectra from SDSS, as well as other recent surveys, in order to contribute to a number of ongoing projects specific to the assembly of the Milky Way galaxy and the nature of its constituent populations.

Prof. Justin R. Crepp
Email: jcrepp (at)

Professor Justin R. Crepp’s experimental astrophysics laboratory is developing new and innovative technologies to detect extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. A number of different approaches and techniques are being pursued; most involve correcting for the image-blurring effects introduced by Earth's turbulent atmosphere. The primary goal of our program is to design, prototype, and test instruments for large ground-based telescopes (such as the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona) that enable the discovery and subsequent characterization of terrestrial planets, including those orbiting in the habitable zone. Prospective REU students with an interest in instrumentation and/or computer programming are encouraged to apply.  

Prof. Peter Garnavich
Email: pgarnavi (at)

Cataclysmic variables stars are short period binary systems where one star accretes gas from a companion. Their light variations come on times scales from seconds to centuries. Analyzing their light curves provides information on the accretion physics and orbital periods. The REU research will include obtaining and studying light curves of several cataclysmic variables using telescopes at Notre Dame and in Arizona.

Prof. Lara Arielle Phillips
Email: lphilli2 (at)

From Observation to Simulation: Exploring new galaxy feedback scenarios: Theorists can now run computer simulations that follow the evolution of large swatches of the universe over its lifetime. The outputs of such effort are rich in information that can be compared with observations of the actual universe we live in. In the past five years, our picture of the interchange of material between galaxies and the surrounding intergalactic medium (feedback), a key marker of galaxy evolution, has undergone a dramatic change. The researcher will test different feedback scenarios in the simulations which will help provide a more powerful link between the simulated universe and this observational data. During the course of the project, the researcher will gain familiarity with observations of galaxies, large computer simulations, and the cosmology of the universe.