Potential REU Projects

Potential REU Projects - Summer 2021 (available projects might be different in summer 2022)


Prof. Timothy Beers
Email: tbeers@nd.edu

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. Jeffrey Chilcote
Email: jchilcot@nd.edu

Professor Jeffrey Chilcote studies focus on the construction of astronomical instruments and the direct detection and characterization of extrasolar planets. While thousands of planets have been discovered to date, most are only observed by their effect upon their parent star. Direct imaging of extrasolar planets involves blocking, suppressing, and subtracting the light of the bright parent star so that a planet hundreds of thousands of times fainter can be seen and studied in detail. Prof. Chilcote’s instrumentation lab works with telescopes in Hawaii and Chile to construct and deploy these sophisticated instruments on sky. REU students may be involved with ongoing instrumentation work and/or the analysis of astronomy and instrument performance data from these high contrast instruments.

Prof. J. Christopher Howk and Prof. Nicolas Lehner
Email: jhowk@nd.edu
Email: nlehner@nd.edu

The AGN Impact on the Circumgalactic Medium of Centaurus A: The deposition of energy from active galactic nuclei (AGN) – the energetic accretion disks around supermassive black holes in galaxies' centers – plays a critical role in transforming massive star forming galaxies to quiescent ones which aren't forming stars. This "AGN feedback" shifts the temperatures and ionization states of the gas in the circumgalactic medium (CGM) of these galaxies to higher energies, suppressing cooling that might otherwise provide fuel for new star formation. Our project uses ultraviolet spectroscopy from the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the gaseous CGM around the nearby, very well-studied giant radio-lobe galaxy Cen A to search directly for the signal of AGN feedback impacting the CGM of a galaxy. 

Condensed Matter Physics/Biophysics

Prof. Badih Assaf
Email: bassaf@nd.edu

Quantum materials: optical and electronic properties. Our team specializes in studying the optical and electronic properties of quantum materials. We use various tools that allow us to measure the optical response and electrical conductivity of nanosized quantum materials at various temperatures and under a strong magnetic field. The projects that are available for the summer REU include Raman spectroscopy measurements on 2D quantum materials, infrared absorption spectroscopy measurements on topological insulator thin films, and magnetometry measurements on magnetic quantum material thin films.

Prof. Sylwia Ptasinska
Email: sylwia.ptasinska.1@nd.edu

Low-energy electron interactions with biomolecules. Abundance of fundamental and applied cross-disciplinary research areas, involving low energy electrons (LEEs), have experienced a significant growth in recent years. Specific reactions, induced by LEEs, are relevant to many fields: plasma, nanolithography, dielectric aging, radiation processing and waste management, astrobiology, planetary and atmospheric chemistry, radiobiology, radiotherapy, and explosive detection. The LEE interactions are also relevant to many experimental techniques in which samples are probed by radiation (e.g., synchrotron studies). It is generally accepted that electrons with energies less than 15 eV are considered “low energy”. In recent years our group focused on LEE interactions with DNA and its constituents. It has been shown that nucleobases play an essential role in radiation damage to DNA by acting as antennas for capturing the LEEs. However, other macromolecules within the cell (e.g., cell membrane or proteins) may be susceptible to radiation damage.

Thus, in this research project, a student will be involved in revealing, identifying and quantifying all major electron induced fragmentation patterns of different biologically relevant molecules in the gas phase.

Prof. Dervis Can Vural
Email: dvural@nd.edu

We are a theoretical group that works on the interface between statistical mechanics and biology. Currently we focus on three categories of problems: First, evolution of strongly interacting populations, particularly when stochastic factors are as influential as selection events. For example, we would like to understand how an ecological web gets mingled, or what role phenotypic diversity plays in cancer. Secondly, we are interested in failure and death: We study how complex systems respond to the malfunction of one or few crucial components, and how malfunctions spread. Thirdly we are interested in “inverse problems”, particularly in the context of complex materials and networks. This class of problems involves obtaining equations and assumptions directly from experimental behavior, rather than the other way around. We are particularly excited about cases where the data is consistent with multiple conflicting assumptions!


High-Energy Physics

Prof. Laura Fields
Email: lfields2@nd.edu

Neutrino oscillations are the phenomena whereby the flavor (electron, muon, or tau) of a neutrino changes as it travels through space.  Understanding this mysterious process requires a precise understanding of how neutrinos interact with ordinary matter.  The MINERvA experiment at Fermilab is making measurements of neutrino-nuclear interactions for this purpose.  This project will involve analysis of MINERvA data, focusing on processes that produce a pi meson (quark-antiquark pair).  The project requires some experience with programming, and familiarity with Python, C++, and the Linux operating system would be helpful.

Prof. John M. LoSecco
Email: losecco@nd.edu

The student could work on the LBNF/DUNE experiment. The LBNF/DUNE experiment will measure the remaining parameters of the neutrino mixing matrix. Our current work involves understanding the detector response to a supernova neutrino burst. Detection efficiency, energy resolution and sample purity are some of the issues under investigation. These issues are sensitive to the optical properties of the liquid argon. We will explore detector improvements that reduce the impact of light scattering and radioactive background.

Prof. Kevin Lannon and Prof. Mike Hildreth
Email: mhildret@nd.edu
Email: klannon@nd.edu

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment looks at collisions produced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is the worlds highest energy particle collider, with a growing dataset that could be hiding the next big scientific discovery.  An REU student selecting this project would work on one of two projects:  (1) Analyze CMS data, particularity studying top quarks and Higgs bosons or searching for signs of supersymmetry.  (2) Studies of a new trigger algorithm planned for the high-luminosity upgrade of the CMS detector planned for 2026.

Prerequisites:  This project requires familiarity with programming in C++ and the Linux operating system.  Knowledge of Python and ROOT is a plus.


Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Science Laboratory

Prof. Tan Ahn
Email: tan.ahn@nd.edu

Our research group studies how nuclear properties are determined by the underlying interactions of the nucleons. This is an extremely difficult task, but we aim to make progress in this direction by studying various nuclear reactions using a variety of nuclei. One of the tools we use to study these reactions is a detector, called a time-projection chamber, that can record a 3-dimensional image of a single reaction taking place inside its gas-filled volume. By recording a large number of these images, we can deduce the probability of a certain reaction taking place. This information gives us insight into the internal dynamics of the nucleus. There is a number of opportunities for projects related to these type of measurements, which include the design of a printed-circuit board for an electron-amplification detector, design of a test chamber for testing detector gases, use of lasers in gas cells, development of particle-track visualization, and development of data analysis and data acquisition programs. Students can also participate in experiments at the Nuclear Science Lab as opportunity allows.

Prof. Ani Aprahamian
Email: aapraham@nd.edu

Professor Aprahamian is a nuclear experimentalist whose research focuses on measurements of nuclear properties that affect stellar environments and explosive astrophysical scenarios. These include masses, beta-decay half lives, beta-delayed neutron emission probabilities of exotic neutron rich nuclei, and the evolution of nuclear structure for nuclei near stability. She is particularly interested in using particle and gamma-ray spectroscopy tools to address open questions in nuclear science. She is an expert in nuclear level lifetime measurement techniques. Presently developing instrumentation for the simultaneous measurement of gamma-rays and conversion electrons resulting from nuclear reactions.

Prof. Daniel Bardayan
Email: dbardayan@nd.edu

Exploding stars such as novae and supernovae produce exotic nuclei that are not typically found on Earth but must be created artificially in the laboratory.  This project involves the creation of such exotic nuclei using accelerated beams at the Nuclear Science Laboratory in combination with the TwinSol facility.  The student will be involved in a number of projects involving TwinSol including the possibility of performing experiments with exotic beams.

Prof. Maxime Brodeur
Email: mbrodeur@nd.edu

Ion trapping, an experimental technique traditionally used in atomic physics, is now being applied to perform precision measurements to help answer questions ranging from explaining the origin of the heaviest elements to searching for physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. We are currently developing ion traps to answer these questions at the University of Notre Dame. The REU student will be involved in research and development of ion transport and trapping devices.

Prof. Mark Caprio

Email: mcaprio@nd.edu

The REU student project will involve working with some aspect of this problem, depending on the student's interest and background.  Background at the level of an undergraduate modern physics or quantum mechanics course is necessary, and the project will require a solid undergraduate mathematics background in linear algebra (group theory and differential equations also helpful) and good programming abilities.

Prof. Umesh Garg
Email: garg@nd.edu

Nuclear Incompressibility is one of the three fundamental quantities characterizing the equation of state of infinite nuclear matter and the only one which has not been measured in a direct experiment. It is critical to our understanding of a wide variety of nuclear and astrophysical phenomena including neutron stars, stellar collapse, supernovae, and collective flow in high-energy heavy-ion collisions. We measure nuclear incompressibility directly by observing the compressional-mode vibrations of atomic nuclei. These experiments are carried out at the Research Center of Nuclear Physics at Osaka University, Osaka, Japan and the RIKEN Laboratory, Japan. The REU student will help with data analysis and might have the opportunity to participate in an experiment at RCNP.

Prof. Graham Peaslee
Email: gpeaslee@nd.edu

Our research is centered about the use of nuclear physics in environmental applications. Ion beam analysis techniques such as Particle-Induced Gamma-ray Emission and Particle-Induced X-ray Emission are used to screen samples for chemicals of concern such as per- and polyfluroinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and other halogenated flame retardants. A new 3MV tandem pelletron accelerator is being used to conduct these measurements and students will be involved in the testing of the new accelerator and its detector systems with standards and environmental samples.  Specific studies will involve students in sample collection and preparation, running the accelerator and acquiring data, as well as data analysis and interpretation for publication.

Prof. Anna Simon
Email: anna.simon@nd.edu

The origin of proton rich heavy elements (p-nuclei) is one of the greatest mysteries of stellar nucleosynthesis. The project involves working with a gamma-ray summing detector (HECTOR) on measurements of capture reactions relevant for nuclear astrophysics. Students will participate in the experiment at ND, work on data analysis and Monte Carlo simulations, they will utilize C++, ROOT and Geant4 libraries in their work.