research experiences for undergraduates (REU) in physics & astronomy

- Potential projects -


individual faculty

Here are some sample projects from prospective mentors in the REU program. Project descriptions will be added or refined as they become available. Some projects and faculty listed here may not be available during Summer 2010, pending other faculty commitments.

  • Browne (statistical mechanics, condensed matter theory)

    The ascent velocity of high-altitude balloons for experimental astrophysics research has been observed to be relatively constant up to the tropopause and then changes above this. We will look at modeling this behavior in terms of changing temperature, pressure, etc., to understand the physics involved.
  • Jarrell (computational, condensed matter theory)

    With colleagues in chemistry and computer science, we are interested in an REU student to help us develop GPU accelerated Physics and Chemistry codes. The student would have access to a new GPU cluster and would work with us to implement simple GPU accelerated calculations in OpenCL, CUDA, or with code written with PGI compilers.
  • Kutter (neutrino physics)

    The experimental neutrino physics group investigates and measures the properties of neutrinos, one of the most abundant yet most elusive fundamental particles in nature. An REU student on our team and mentored in our group would have the opportunity to a) participate in data analysis from the newly constructed long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment T2K (Tokai to Kamiokande) or b) contribute to the development of new detectors for future neutrino experiments. Tasks will allow the student to develop skills in programming and the use of analysis software packages, handling of laboratory equipment and data acquisition systems.
  • Schaefer (astronomy, astrophysics)
    1. Astro-history: Recovering the lost star Catalog of Hipparchus from his sole surviving work (Commentaries).
    2. Nova: With the extensive database of light curves from the AAVSO and the literature, we will construct an extensive catalog of nova light curves after the eruptions are over. The idea is to get (for the first time) real statistics on the decline rate of post-eruption novae, as a test of the hibernation model.
    3. GammaRay Bursts: We will measure how accurately the properties of GRBs can be measured, with big implications for their use as standard candles and cosmology.
  • Sheehy (condensed matter physics)

    Theoretical research into cold atomic gases: Spawned by the observation of Bose-Einstein condensation in 1995, the field of ultracold atomic gases has undergone a revolution in recent years, as experimentalists probe the novel properties of correlated cold atoms. Our theoretical physics research group attempts to understand recent experiments in this field, applying the methods of quantum field theory. Particular topics of interest include the collective behavior of vortices in rapidly-rotating Bose-Einstein condensates and superfluidity of paired fermionic atomic gases.
  • Singh (quantum gravity)

    In the quantum gravity group at LSU, one of the fundamental questions we actively perform research on is to understand the origin of our universe. Simple theoretical models are studied in quantum cosmology using analytical and numerical methods. An REU student in our group will have opportunity to learn about the new physics near the big bang and will be expected to develop numerical programs to simulate the behavior of the universe using the analytical models.

research groups

  • Draayer, Launey, Dytrych (theoretical nuclear physics)

    An REU student working in this group will have the unique opportunity to build upon the latest developments in nuclear theory and to explore atomic nuclei starting from quark and gluon considerations. This will include performing large-scale computer simulations using novel LSU-developed codes. Projects will aim at modeling the unknown structure of short-lived nuclei that still remain inaccessible by experimental studies but are essential for understanding the dynamics of stellar burning, X-ray bursts, synthesis of elements, as well as fusion ignition processes.
  • Clayton, Frank, Hynes, Schaefer, Tohline, Landolt (astronomy/astrophysics)
    1. Luminosity Indicators of Gamma Ray Bursts: Luminosity indicators are properties in the gamma ray burst light curve that are well correlated with its luminosity, so that the inverse square law can be used to get distances to the bursts. These distances have a variety of applications, including the expansion of the Universe out to high redshifts. REU students would use NASA satellite data (e.g., Swift, Fermi) to study the properties of gamma ray bursts.
    2. Photometry of Novae: The REU student would remotely take CCD images with the SMARTS, ROTSE, and MONET telescopes, reduce and analyze the data to return magnitudes. Currently, undergraduate students are working on eclipse timings of two recurrent novae, using fast time photometry during a bright outburst to seek both fast variations and shallow eclipses, and measure magnitudes of novae long after the eruption is over (looking for declines associated with hibernation); REU students would work on similar types of analysis.
    3. Variable Stars: Light variations from stars are caused by geometric changes, as in eclipsing binary systems, or by physical changes from within the stars themselves. The former systems can lead to numbers describing the physical characteristics of the individual components of the binary system. Photometric data for several different kinds of variable objects have been obtained. These data await analysis. Included are period studies of both eclipsing binary stars and intrinsic variable stars. The light variations can be used as a diagnostic metric in an effort to understand the stars and their evolution.
    4. Circumstellar Dust: The amount and nature of dust produced by Red Supergiants (RSGs) is being studied by analyzing stars in two nearby galaxies, the LMC and SMC. We will model radiative transfer in the circumstellar dust shells. Data from the Spitzer Space Telescope have been obtained for all the stars in our sample. Stellar SEDs and extinction curves, derived from the optical and near-IR data have been combined with the Spitzer IR photometry to use as inputs to the RT codes. By measuring the amount of dust produced by RSGs in different environments (low vs. high metallicity), we can quantify their role in galactic dust-content evolution, which will have an impact on our understanding of massive star evolution and dust production. Student projects include computer modeling and data analysis.
  • Gonzalez, Pullin, Singh, Diener (LIGO, gravitation)

    An REU student will participate in activities involving the calibration and characterization of the LIGO data stream, as well as contributing to the search for gravitational waves hiding in the noise. The student will be able to visit and do some of their work at the LIGO Livingston Observatory, 30 miles from the LSU campus. Another possible project is simulating black holes and supernova explosions on Louisiana’s and the nation's fastest supercomputers, helping to analyze and visualize simulation results to determine their visibility in gravitational, electromagnetic, and neutrino detectors.
  • Adams, DiTusa, Jin, Kurtz, Plummer, Sprunger, Stadler, Young, Zhang (experimental condensed matter)

    This REU research topic will expose students to the development and characterization of novel materials, including artificial layered compounds, complex oxides, and nanomaterials. An REU student could work on synthesis of new intermetallic superconductors, thermoelectrics, and magnetic materials and measure their physical properties at temperatures near absolute zero and in high magnetic fields. Another student could be involved in the synthesis and low temperature characterization of low dimensional correlated electron systems. Finally, other students will participate in projects utilizing the CAMD synchrotron facility.
  • Browne, Jarrell, Moreno, Sheehy, Vekhter (theoretical condensed matter)

    An REU student working in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics would assist with calculations in areas of interest including unconventional superconductivity in heavy fermion systems, interplay of magnetism and superconductivity, quantum criticality, and other aspects of correlated electron behavior. Typical activities would include implementation of models of vortex state for realistic Fermi surfaces to describe the thermodynamic and transport measurements as a function of temperature and applied magnetic field and carrying out analysis of different aspects of quantum critical phenomena. Other projects include: investigating novel properties and phases of cold atomic gases including quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superfluidity and magnetism; computer studies of phase transitions in nonequilibrium systems and/or studies of nonequilibrium transport phenomena such as transport in hydrogen storage materials; and massively parallel simulations of strongly correlated electronic systems using NSF and DOE national leadership-class supercomputers.
  • Dowling, Lee, Rau (quantum science and technologies)

    Possible projects for an REU student working in this group are design of quantum error correction codes and quantum memory for photonic qubits. Other possible projects involve theory and modeling of quantum computers, quantum crypto-systems, quantum teleportation, as well as quantum imaging, sensing, metrology, and interferometry. An REU student could also work on problems involving quantum entanglement, especially of two qubits. Exploring various measures of entanglement and calculating other correlations such as quantum discord for different pure and mixed states of such two-qubit systems will be the focus of this work.
  • Gaarde, Schafer (atomic, molecular and optical physics)

    The attosecond physics group at LSU studies the production and application of sub-femtosecond soft x-ray pulses to atomic systems. An REU student mentored in our group would work with computer codes that simulate the interaction between intense laser fields and atoms with the goal of understanding attosecond light at a fundamental level.
  • Cherry, Guzik, J. Matthews, Stacy, Wefel (space science/experimental astrophysics)
    1. Prototype Testing for the CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) Space Mission: The student will be involved with the development and testing of prototype detectors for the CALET International Space Station (ISS) experiment that be capable of studying cosmic ray electrons and gamma-rays to energies beyond 1 TeV with very high energy resolution and background rejection. CALET will be able to refine the discovery by the LSU-lead ATIC balloon experiment of an unexpected excess of cosmic ray electrons at about 600 GeV, most likely due to a nearby source of high energy particles such as a pulsar or the annihilation of dark matter in a nearby clump. The student will take part in laboratory tests and/or development of a prototype neutron detector system that will be carried to 100,000 feet by a helium balloon for flight testing.
    2. Development of a high resolution, rotating modulator, LaBr3:Ce hard X-ray/gamma ray imaging telescope: The REU student will participate in the field tests of this working instrument at the nearby River Bend Nuclear Reactor and at the Port of New Orleans monitoring ship traffic. The instrument uses new imaging algorithms coupled with a rotating modulator (collimator) to reduce complexity and provide for long-range imaging of weak radioactive sources with excellent angular and energy resolution. The student will participate in detector operation and data analysis gaining experience with gamma ray spectroscopy experimental techniques.
    3. Analysis of data from the Gamma ray Burst Monitor (GBM) instrument on the Fermi gamma ray satellite mission: In this project the REU student will work with the LSU GBM team to search for steady and transient sources of hard X-rays and low energy gamma rays from discrete sources such galactic black hole binaries, AGN, pulsars, supernova remnants, and the Galactic Center. The student work will involve data processing, programming, and analysis of both Fermi GBM data and also data from various other spacecraft (e.g., Swift and Integral).

Last updated:  March 22, 2012