Projects

Faculty/Projects


David Allred and Steve Turley

Extreme Ultraviolet Optics for Next Decade’s Broadband-Space Observatory

One or two REU students will work with Professor Allred and Professor Turley to do the basic material and optical science behind determining what the mirror coating for the next very large NASA flagship space telescope will be and how that coating will be applied and protected. The LUVOIR (large UV-optical-IR) space telescope is in the formulation stage with scientists and engineers around the country contributing their insights. It may be as large as 16 meters in diameter and will be designed to meet both the needs of astrophysicists probing the beginnings and endings of stars, planetary systems and galaxies, etc., and the needs of exoplanetary scientists seeking to characterize some of the tens of thousands of planets around other stars that we will discover in the 10 years the space observatory will be used. Professors Allred and Turley’s research will look at protecting aluminum in a way that allows its VUV and EUV optical properties to remain intact. We will also look at designing, fabricating, and testing multilayer mirror coatings under the aluminum which will further extend the mirrors’ reflectance into the EUV.

Background Needed

  • Introductory mechanics and electromagnetic theory. Modern physics and computer programming experience may be helpful.

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Computational electromagnetics (FORTRAN and/or Julia)
  • Computer control of instrumentation (C#)
  • Data fitting (python and/or Mathematica)
  • High vacuum and ultra-high vacuum systems
  • Thin-film deposition: especially, evaporation and sputtering
  • Thin-film and materials characterization:
    • X-ray diffraction measurements
    • X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements
    • Spectroscopic Ellipsometry
    • Atomic force microscopy
  • VUV Spectroscopy
    • optical engineering at BYU and 
    • measurements at the Advanced Light Source

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Brian Anderson, Tim Leishman, and Scott Sommerfeldt

Acoustics

There is an opportunity for collaborative research with faculty and current graduate students in the area of acoustics. Projects may involve making a variety of acoustical measurements in different types of sound fields. Examples include pressure, intensity, or other energy-based measurements in our anechoic or reverberation chambers, in ducts, or outdoors. Some research may include working with theoretical or numerical models for comparison with experimental data. Other research could involve measurement automation using LabVIEW or another package. Applications of current research involve architectural and audio design, jet and rocket noise simulation, active noise control, and time reversal acoustics.

Background Needed

  • strong interest in acoustics, audio, or noise control
  • aptitude for working with instrumentation (oscilloscopes, analyzers, microphones, etc)
  • familiarity with a numerical mathematics program such as MATLAB or Mathcad
  • an ability to both work with a team and independently
  • knowledge of passive electrical circuits would be helpful
  • a working knowledge of LabVIEW would be helpful

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • hands-on familiarity with acoustical measurement hardware
  • ability to comprehend relevant technical literature
  • acoustic data analysis and graphical representation
  • data interpretation
  • physical experiment design
  • programming experience in MATLAB, Mathcad, LabVIEW, or another language
  • a knowledge of time series photometry

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Branton Campbell

Materials Science

Students in our group use intense x-ray and neutron beams to probe atomic structures in useful and exotic materials (e.g. high-temperature superconductors and multi-ferroics). They also learn to apply advanced computer algorithms and mathematical methods to determine the atomic structure of a material, and then relate that structure to its interesting properties. See http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/campbell/ for more information.

Background Needed (Helpful Preparations)

  • introductory physics and/or chemistry courses
  • interest in mathematics
  • an introductory computer programming course

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Conduct x-ray and neutron diffraction experiments.
  • Use Fourier analysis to find the atomic arrangements in crystals.
  • Learn to apply group representation theory to symmetry breaking
  • .Become proficient in Python and/or Mathematica programming languages

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Karine Chesnel

Nanomagnetism

Our group studies magnetic properties of nanosystems such as nanoparticles and magnetic ultra-thin films. These materials exhibit magnetic structures at the nanometer scale. We use various tools to investigate the properties of these magnetic structures, including magnetic imaging (MFM), magnetometry (VSM), and synchrotron X-ray scattering techniques. By combining these different experiments we learn about how magnetic domains form, propagate and disappear as we apply an external magnetic field to the material. In the case of magnetic thin films, we also study the ability for the magnetic domain pattern to remember its configuration throughout field cycling. In case of magnetic nanoparticles, we also study magnetic ordering between nanoparticles and dynamics of magnetic fluctuations. This research is mostly experimental. A REU student would typically be involved in collecting magnetic images or magnetometry data on these magnetic structures after proper training on instrumentation, and in analyzing the data.

Background Needed

  • Interest in material sciences
  • Basic Electricity and Magnetism
  • Introductory Modern Physics
  • Interest in learning experimental techniques

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Expertise in Magnetic Force Imaging (MFM)
  • Expertise in Vibrating Sample Magnetometry (VSM)
  • Expertise in X-ray Diffraction (XRD)
  • Advanced knowledge in nanomagnetism
  • Analytical skills in interpreting magnetometry data and analyzing magnetic images
  • Computational skills in processing X-ray scattering images

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John Colton

Semiconductor Nanomaterials

This research involves studying the properties of semiconductor nanomaterials through primarily optical methods. Right now we've got these projects going on:

  1. Semiconductor nanoparticles in ferritin - Ferritin is a hollow protein about 10 nm in diameter and can be used to create semiconductor nanoparticles which form inside the protein shell. We're investigating ways to synthesize new nanoparticles, such as PbSe, PbTe, and ZnO, and studying their properties for optical applications.
  2. Nanoparticles as temperature sensors - We're trying to use semiconductor nanoparticles as temperature sensors. By measuring the nanoparticles’ optical properties (photoluminescence and PL lifetime) as a function of temperature, we are developing machine learning techniques to allow these nanoparticles to later serve as optical sensors of temperature. A potential application could be injecting the nanoparticles into tissue to monitor temperatures as focused ultrasound is used to heat up and destroy tumors.
  3. ZnO layers - Zinc oxide is a semiconductor that can potentially be used to make semiconductor LEDs and lasers. However, to make such devices you need both “n-type” and “p-type” material, and since ZnO tends to naturally form as n-type it has traditionally been very hard to make good quality p-type ZnO. We are investigating a method for growing p-type ZnO layers (a few hundred nm in thickness) on substrates coated with ZnAs, where the arsenic atoms get incorporated into the ZnO layer and dope it p-type.
  4. (Proposed) Study and control of electron spins in triplet states of conjugated hydrocarbons. Quantum computing requires “qubits”, namely quantum mechanical states which can be used as the bits of a computer. Electron spin states in triplet states of conjugated hydrocarbons such as pentacene and its derivatives have shown some promise in this regard, and if funded, this research will involve studying them through optical initialization and readout of the spin states combined with microwave resonance to induce transitions between the states.

Background Needed

  • introductory modern physics class would be helpful
  • other skills such as optics, chemical synthesis, computer programming, and/or basic electronics can also be helpful although much can be learned “on the job”

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • experience with lasers and optical spectroscopy techniques
  • fundamental concepts in quantum mechanics and semiconductor physics
  • materials synthesis and characterization

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Robert Davis

Nanostructure Fabrication and Characterization

Our group is working on microscale and nanometer scale fabrication and characterization. Recent advances now allow us to fabricate structures including biological structures with sizes down to a few nanometers across. In our research, we are exploring carbon nanotube composites, nanoscale chemical patterning of surfaces, and nanocrystaline phase change materials. These nanostructures have unique mechanical and electrical properties and will have significant impact in many fields including: solar power conversion, micromachines and microsensors, and biological tissue growth. We perform a host of measurements on these structures to aid in understanding and controlling their structure and physical properties.

Background Needed

  • introductory mechanics, electricity and magnetism
  • modern physics
  • electronics is valuable

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Nanomaterial preparation and characterization techniques including:
    • chemical vapor deposition of nanotubes
    • atomic force microscopy and manipulation
    • ellipsometry
    • electron microscopy
    • lithography

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Ben Frandsen

Local Structure of Quantum Materials

“Quantum materials” possess fascinating properties such as superconductivity, unconventional magnetism, topological phases, and more. These properties cannot be explained by classical physics, but instead originate from the principles of quantum mechanics playing out in a system with a large number of interacting particles—in this case, the electrons in a solid. In addition to revealing the fundamental workings of quantum mechanics in solids, many of these materials may also have potential for technological application. We use advanced experimental techniques using beams of x-rays, neutrons, and muons to study the atomic and magnetic structure of quantum materials and gain insight into their exotic properties. Students will perform sophisticated data analysis and visualization in the Python programming language and may also help synthesize these materials in the laboratory.

Background Needed

  • Introductory physics courses
  • Interest in superconductivity, magnetism, and other topics in condensed matter physics
  • Some experience with computer programming is helpful; a willingness to learn is necessary.

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Understanding of atomic structure and symmetry
  • Understanding of exotic and useful material properties
  • Knowledge of x-ray/neutron diffraction and muon spin relaxation techniques
  • Data analysis and visualization in Python

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Michael Joner

Astronomy: Asteroids, Exoplanets, etc.

My research is focused on the study of time series observations of a wide variety of different astrophysical sources. These objects include solar system minor bodies such as asteroids and Kuiper belt objects, the detection of planetary sized objects transiting distant stars, the study of both pulsating and eclipsing variable stars, and studies of extragalactic objects such as blazars and active galactic nuclei. Current studies look for variability on timescales of a few minutes all the way up to several years. These data can be used to detect extrasolar planets, determine fundamental stellar properties, and define the fundamental properties of supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. REU students will work on a project in one of these fields by making observations at our West Mountain Observatory or by analyzing archival data from previous observing runs. One interesting bonus gained by doing work at the observatory is that there are often opportunities to help with observations on a wide variety of objects being studied as part of several different ongoing investigations.

Background Needed

  • some background in introductory astronomy
  • a desire to learn something new

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • astronomical observing techniques
  • CCD observing methods
  • telescope and observatory operations
  • data reduction methods using different astronomical software (IRAF, AstroImageJ, VPhot)
  • a knowledge of time series photometry

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David Neilsen

Numerical Relativity

Students will study aspects of compact object systems such as neutron stars and black holes in astrophysical environments. Problems considered include the modeling the physics of neutron stars such as their interior and exterior magnetic field configurations and the effects of rotation, magnetic helicity and equations of state. Dynamical binary systems may also be studied.

Background Needed

  • strong mathematical skills
  • experience with numerical methods, particularly as applied to solving differential equations

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • differential geometry
  • an introduction to general relativity
  • computational physics
  • skills related to solving PDEs

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Traci Neilsen

Underwater Acoustics

Large arrays of hydrophones in the ocean can be used to locate acoustic sources. The reliability of these localization algorithms depends on the degree to which the ocean environment is correctly parameterized in the models. Machine learning is needed to correctly tackle this problem in real-time.

Background Needed

  • Desire to learn about machine learning
  • Python programming experience

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Practical experience with complex machine and deep learning algorithms
  • Improved scientific computing skills
  • Understanding of ocean acoustics
  • Practice reading technical literature
  • Written/oral communication experience

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Darin Ragozzine

Orbits of Exoplanets and Solar System Small Bodies

Despite our powerful telescopes, most objects we discover are so far away that they only appear as a point of light. This includes objects in the far reaches of our own solar system beyond Neptune, known as Kuiper Belt Objects (or KBOs or sometimes Trans-Neptunian Objects or TNOs). Much further away are planets orbiting around other stars – exoplanets – which are usually discovered without detecting the light from the planet at all, but only the effect that the planets have on their parent stars. For both exoplanets and KBOs, the majority of the limited information we have is their orbital properties, such as time to complete an orbit or tilt of the orbit relative to some reference plane. As a result, orbital dynamics can be used to investigate both populations. An REU student could choose among multiple projects related to the orbits of KBOs or exoplanets. The goal of the project would be to develop transferable skills, to gain a letter of recommendation, and to contribute to the publication and/or conference proceeding. Dr. Ragozzine has a talent for identifying summer undergraduate projects; he has assisted 5+ undergraduate students in their eventual publication of a first-author journal article, helping to launch them into good graduate schools.

Background Needed

  • Scientific computing (even at a minimal level)
  • Basic knowledge of math, physics, astronomy, and/or planetary science is helpful.

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Better undergraduate research practices
  • Stronger scientific computing
  • Improved insight into KBOs or exoplanets
  • State-of-the-art statistical analysis
  • Written/oral communication

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Richard Sandberg

Coherent Lensless Imaging and Optics

We are developing coherent diffraction or lensless imaging to study materials dynamics at the nanometer scale. We use coherent light sources (optical, XUV, and x-ray), Fourier optics and computer algorithms to produce high resolution images of materials.

Background Needed

  • desire to learn and try new things
  • some exposure to optics is helpful but not necessary – some exposure of computer programming helpful but not necessary
  • we have sub-teams working in optics labs and on programming algorithms, but the two teams work closely together

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • basic understanding of diffraction and light scattering
  • understanding of iterative computer algorithms and modeling of light propagation – understanding how light interacts with materials – understanding how materials behave at the nanometer scale

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Denise Stephens

Astronomy: Brown dwarfs

Our research group is currently looking for binary brown dwarf systems using data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). An REU student would primarily work with us on refining the binary detection technique, looking for new binary systems, and characterizing the uncertainty in the detection approach and the final magnitudes, separations, etc. of the systems.

We also have a research program searching for transiting planets around nearby bright stars. Using the 16” telescope on campus and the 0.9-meter telescope at West Mountain, we will teach the REU student how to obtain photometric data for a star that may have a planet. We will teach the REU student how to reduce that data and run it through a data processing program called AstroImageJ to determine whether or not the star's light curve does show a dip in brightness characteristic of the drop in light expected from a transiting exoplanet.

Background Needed

  • Introductory astronomy class useful, but not required
  • Must be able to write and work with some kind of computer programming language
  • Have enough familiarity with programming to read and understand Fortran programs

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Analyzing and Reducing data from HST
  • Creating programs to handle various aspects of data reduction
  • Learning how to program using Monte Carlo techniques
  • Data reduction using the STSDAS package in IRAF
  • Background in astronomy doing some cutting edge research

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Mark Transtrum

Superconducting Materials for Next Generation Particle Accelerators

Particle accelerators are a foundational technology in modern science, enabling fundamental research in facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), as well as providing some of our best sources of coherent x-rays for probing nanoscale structure in materials. The same physical principles underlie other technologies such as electron microscopy. Superconducting resonance cavities are the enabling technology that allows subatomic particles to be accelerated to near light speeds. In collaboration with researchers at the Center for Bright Beams (cbb.cornell.edu), we are working to better understand materials properties of superconductors in order to lay the foundation for the next generation of particle accelerators. Our work uses high performance computing to solve equations that describe how specific materials respond to applied magnetic fields at the mesoscale, accounting for details such as surface roughness, grain boundaries, and material inhomogeneities. Our work connects ab initio quantum calculations with precise experimental measurements to guide a “materials by design” approach to cavity development.

Information Theory of Multi-Parameter Models

Mathematical modeling is a central component of nearly all scientific inquiry. Parsimonious representations of physical systems, together with robust methods for interacting with them, is one of the primary engines of scientific progress. Much of the work in our group involves developing new methods, both theoretical and computational, for improving the predictive performance of complex multi-parameter models. Our research explores the mathematical structures that enable predictive modeling. We use information theory, statistics, differential geometry, and topology, as well as relevant physical laws from a variety of fields to better understand data, models, and the relationship between reductionism and emergence.

Modeling Complex Systems

“Complex systems” refers to a variety of physical systems whose properties make traditional modeling approaches challenging. These systems often involve many heterogeneous components connected in complicated ways. Examples include biological systems (e.g., gene or protein regulatory networks, networks of neurons, engineered systems such as the power grid, and many types of materials). These systems can exhibit a rich variety of behaviors, enabled through the complex web of interacting components. Detailed models of these systems are constructed from physical first principles, but these models involve a large number of parameters and physical components. Our research tries to develop minimal models from these “parts lists” in order to summarize and organize our understanding of the phenomena that these complex systems can exhibit.

Background Needed

  • Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
  • Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
  • Computational Physics Tools

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Information theory
  • Differential Geometry
  • Programming/Scripting/Analysis skills
  • Techniques of mathematical modeling and simulation
  • Theory of specific complex systems (e.g., power systems, developmental biology, neuroscience, materials science)

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Richard Vanfleet

Electron Microscopy

These projects involve the characterization of materials from the micron level down to atomic dimensions. The primary tools are electron microscopes (SEM and TEM). These unique instruments will not only allow students to image nanostructures and new materials but will allow them to probe structure, composition, and chemistry with high resolution.

Background Needed

  • introductory physics
  • some computer experience

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • materials handling and polishing
  • SEM and TEM sample preparation
  • SEM and TEM basic operation

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Jean-Francois Van Huele and Manuel Berrondo

Quantum Dynamics for Quantum Information Systems

We study the time evolution of quantum systems with time-dependent parameters for which no exact analytic solutions are known. These involve anharmonic and coupled oscillators, quantum optical and condensed matter systems exhibiting nonlinear effects, all of which play a role in experimental implementations of quantum information schemes involving entanglement, interference, and state characterization. We aim for quantum control and watch for the onset of decoherence and dissipation through the study of open systems and different coupling mechanisms.

Background Needed

  • Exposure to symbolic manipulation and programming (Mathematica and MATLAB will be used)
  • Linear algebra for elementary knowledge of quantum operator formalism
  • Willingness to learn, program, calculate, and interpret

Skills Developed and Knowledge Learned

  • Analytical and computational skills
  • Lie algebras, differential equations, operator techniques
  • Interpretation of approximate solutions in quantum optical and condensed matter systems
  • Exposure to concepts from quantum information and thermodynamics

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