Potential REU Projects
Potential REU Projects - Summer 2022
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. Jonathan Crass
Development of advanced astronomy instrumentation. Ground-based telescopes now regularly use adaptive optics to correct for the effects of Earth's atmosphere. With this capability, it is now possible to develop new, more advanced instruments which operate in the diffraction-limited regime and provide new capabilities to study the Universe. Prof. Crass works on the development of iLocater (https://ilocater.nd.edu/), a new spectrograph being developed for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona, which will search and characterize exoplanets. The instrument is currently being built at Notre Dame and will ship to the LBT in 2023. REU students could be involved with ongoing integration and testing of the instrument. Previous REU students have worked on its design and fabrication.
A survey of the multiphase gas around galaxies in the early universe
KODIAQ is a survey of over 250 HI-selected absorbers at redshift z~2.2-3.5. A future goal of this survey by the ND-CGM group is a systematic study of the OVI absorbers associated with these strong HI absorbers in order to assess the properties of intergalactic and circumgalactic gas at T<500,000 K. This will help characterize the distinctions in multiphase gas properties between metal-poor and metal-rich absorbers to understand the relationship of high ionization gas to accretion and feedback structures at a time where the universe was close to its peak cosmic star-formation activity.
Galactic archaeology is the technique of learning what galaxies were doing billions of years ago using the evidence left over today. What types of supernovae were exploding? How rapidly was the galaxy forming stars? Answers to these questions are encoded in "archaeological" evidence: present-day stellar motions and compositions. The Subaru Prime Focus Spectrograph will be the world's best survey instrument for galactic archaeology when it turns online in 2023. The spectrograph will be located at the Subaru 8-meter telescope in Hawaii. It will have 2,394 optical fibers that can be placed on stars in a 1.25 sq. deg. field (which is a wide field by the standards of large telescopes).
There is much work to prepare for the survey. This REU at Notre Dame will focus on validation of the measurements of stellar velocities and compositions. We will generate mock data to test our software pipelines, and we will use any actual data available from the ongoing commissioning of the instrument. The ultimate goal of the project is to demonstrate the readiness of our software pipelines and to obtain reliable estimates of the expected precision as a function of the brightness of the targeted stars
Prof. Lauren Weiss
We live in a system with multiple small planets, but only Earth hosts intelligent life. How did Earth and Venus, which are barely large enough to hold onto their atmospheres, become twice as large as airless Mercury and Mars? Did Jupiter, which influences the orbits of comets and asteroids, deliver water to Earth? Exoplanet science is an explosive new field catalyzed by the discovery of over 4000 planets orbiting other stars via ground-based observations (Mayor & Queloz 1995) and the NASA Kepler and TESS space telescopes (Borucki et al. 2010, Ricker et al. 2014). Among these discoveries, the planets in multi-planet systems offer a unique but relatively unexplored lens for understanding the solar system. As part of the Astroweiss group, the undergraduate researcher will use recently collected, proprietary data to conduct an original investigation of the elemental compositions of exoplanets and their host stars in a multi-planet system.
Condensed Matter Physics/Biophysics
Prof. Badih Assaf
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.
Machine-learning quantum electronic systems: dynamical and topological phases. Our group theoretically studies the nature and behavior of quantum electronic systems where the electrons interact with each other in profound ways. Specifically, we apply both analytic and numerical methods to model, analyze, and simulate states of matter that have unique symmetry, topological, and dynamical properties. The available projects for the REU program focus on using various machine-learning techniques to study (1) the dynamical phase diagrams of non-equilibrium quasiperiodic systems, and (2) the classification and material prediction for topological superconductors.
Quantum Materials Research: We create, manipulate, visualize, and understand novel quantum states of matter such as superconductivity. Experimentally, we use cryogenic scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs) as both an imaging tool with atomic resolution and a construction tool that crafts quantum matter atom by atom. For the summer REU program, we have three available projects. In the first project, the student will build a system for deterministic transfer of 2D materials and fabrication of high-quality 2D heterostructures for STM study. In the second project, the student will create a LabVIEW-based program for automated single atom/molecule manipulation and assembly in an STM to construct artificial quantum systems. In the third project, the student will develop a suite of advanced image processing algorithms in Python or MATLAB and integrate them into a user-friendly program for atomic-resolution STM image processing. All three projects will play a key role in enabling the characterization and discovery of emergent quantum matter.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. Yuhsin Tsai
Probing Invisible Physics with Precision Cosmological Data: Cosmological data from the observation of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and the Large Scale Structure (LSS) of the Universe provide sensitive probes to new physics beyond the Standard Model. For example, studies of the LSS can set stringent bounds on the possibility of dark matter particles scattering with dark radiations, even if these new particles only couple to the known particles via gravity (which is an extremely weak force between elementary particles). The REU student will learn about dark matter physics, the CMB and LSS data basics, and software CLASS for studying the CMB and LSS signals with new physics in the early universe.
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.
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.
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
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.
The recoil separator St. George will be used to study rare but important nuclear reactions critical in understanding the evolution of the elements heavier than iron. St. George has been commissioned with the study of well known-reactions. It is expected that during the summer we will perform multiple measurements. Any interested REU student will be welcomed to contribute to those measurements.
Prof. Umesh Garg
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
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.