Students can choose a research experience from the areas of astrophysics, biophysics, gravitational wave detection, lasers and photonics, nano-science and advanced materials or radio and optical astronomy.
Participants will receive a stipend of $5,000, travel support up to $600, and room and board.
June 2-August 9, 2013
The University of Texas at Brownsville. Some of the projects will also require that work be carried out at the
Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) in Hanford, Washington.
The University of Texas at Brownsville Physics and Astronomy REU Application
The University of Texas at Brownsville Physics and Astronomy RET Application
Compact Object Binary Simulations
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Matthew Benacquista
Students will work on a project involving data mining or resampling from the results of binary
stellar population synthesis models produced by the StarTrack population synthesis code. The project will be centered on likely gravitational wave sources for either space- or ground-based
interferometers. The data mining project will involve identifying specific evolutionary channels that produce gravitational wave sources while the resampling work will involve using the population
synthesis output to generate multiple realizations of likely source populations.
Gravitational Wave Detection
Particle Swarm Optimization for Maximum Likelihood Estimation
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Soumya Mohanty
In this project, students will apply their programming and mathematical skills to a novel method for the analysis of gravitational wave data. Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) is a method which is gaining
in popularity in several diverse fields, and its first application to GW data analysis shows a lot of promise: Particle swarm optimization and gravitational wave data analysis: Performance on a binary inspiral
testbed [Phys. Rev. D 81 063002 (2010)]. This method basically involves the use of a user specified set of "agents" that move over the parameter space following some simple set of
rules which includes rules governing inter-agent communication. For this research, one or two undergraduate students will learn about PSO and develop new ideas about improving the performance of PSO in the specific
case of matched filtering for binary inspiral searches. This project is quite feasible for undergraduate students having a good background in programming and it can easily lead to publishable results.
Characterization of background noise in LIGO
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Soma Mukherjee
One of the major areas of research in LIGO is called Detector Characterization. This involves looking and characterizing the real data coming out of the LIGO detectors both in real time, as well as off-line.
Noise analysis provides feedback to the experimentalists so that the instrument can be diagnosed for spurious behavior. This provides a great platform for under-graduate students to learn both about the detector
physics as well as about the data analysis techniques. Students will look for correlations using methods from information theory like mutual information to detect interdependency between time series from different
detector channels. Specifically students will learn about LIGO data, methods of storage and extraction of LIGO data, MATLAB as a data analysis tool, methods of statistical data analysis and methods of looking at
glitches seen in the data for understanding their possible origin in the detector sub- systems.
Event identification for LIGO data
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mario Diaz
Lightning events are one of many sources of environmental transients that contaminate LIGO data. The Los Alamos Spherical Array (LASA) project is a research and development effort at Los Alamos National
Laboratory that deploys sensor systems in the field to perform radio- frequency (RF) remote sensing of atmospheric transient events. The predominant atmospheric RF transient events result from lightning discharges.
UTB hosts one of the LASA sensors and has an agreement with LANL to access this data. This project will look at the correlation of lighting events from the LASA array in the Gulf of Mexico and LIGO data.
In particular "glitches" in the LIGO data stream can be identified as lighting events in the data using electromagnetic environmental sensors on location at the LIGO observatories. When this is discerned
clearly the event is marked with a "storm flag". Students will assess the quality of these flags by looking at coincidence with the two data streams from LASA and LIGO.
Identifying in real-time coherent and ambient magnetic field transients at the LIGO observatories
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cristina
Gravitational wave(GW) detectors are amazingly sensitive instruments,attempting measurements never before achieved in human history. These measurements are what we use to detect a passing GW which is a phenomena predicted by General Relativity. In order to detect GWs a great deal of effort is required to minimize measurement error or noise. There is empirical evidence to suggest that interferometer type GW detectors are sensitive to high intensity external magnetic field fluctuations. The fluctuations are one of many sources of undesired noise introduced into the detector measurements. The phenomena
responsible for this type of noise ranges from lighting strikes, to failing electronics equipment on-site. The goal of this work is to identify magnetic field transients in real-time, localize their source, and deduce if the strength of these transients has caused a surge in the amount of noise the detectors experience. As part of this project, we will design software algorithms to coherently track local magnetic field fluctuations, verify manufactures calibration of magnetic field sensors, triangulate off-site magnetic field transients(lighting strikes), develop magnetic field sniffing instruments, record this information into a database, and visualize site magnetic noise graphically in real time. This is an ambitious project with many elements. The REU student will be expected to tackle various elements of this project as directed by their faculty mentor.
Lasers and Photonics
Modeling and Experimental Studies of the Propagation of Light in Photonic Crystals
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Malik Rakhmanov
Photonic crystals are new materials in which the dielectric constant is engineered to form a regular (periodic) lattice. For example, synthetic opals are photonic crystals made of silica nano spheres, which are arranged,
in a face-centered cubic (FCC) lattice. The periodic structure of the photonic crystals leads to interesting new phenomena such as photonic bands and band gaps similar to those known in semiconductor materials.
As a result, these new materials possess rather unusual optical properties. In particular, it is expected that the synthetic opals can exhibit negative index of refraction under certain conditions, which can be studied
with computer modeling. In the first project, the student will model the propagation of light in opals using FullWave simulation package developed by RSoft which runs on the UTB's multi-node computer cluster. The goal
is to explore the negative refraction properties of opals in a fully 3-dimensional model of the FCC lattice. In the second project, the student will study the propagation of a laser beam in opal samples in a table-top interferometer
in the optics lab at UTB. The experiments will include studies of refraction and reflection of the laser beam in opal samples and comparison of the experimental results with theoretical predictions.
Characterization of Losses in Optical Cavities
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Volker Quetschke
The characterization of losses in optical cavities provides an important tool to assess the durability and long term development of those cavities and can be used to implement an early warning system about emerging
problems during the long time operation of those cavities, for example in the future aLIGO detector. The measurement of the width of the Airy profile of a Fabry-Perot cavity, the so-called cavity bandwidth, yields the
total optical losses. REU students will be involved in investigating optical losses in optical cavities in a tabletop experiment.
Beam Pointing in Space Missions
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Volker Quetschke
In future space missions, for example the LISA mission, a space borne gravitational wave detector, or in laser communication between satellites the drift of the spacecrafts can limit the amount of transmitted and received
information. In order to help mitigate this effect a technique is needed to measure the beam pointing of the lasers from the far spacecraft and to feed back a correcting signal. This project is investigated at UTB and REU
students can be involved in multiple stages of the project, from characterizing the performance of the digital phasemeter electronics to setting up a realistic test bed for small angular changes of the beam.
Radio and Optical Astronomy
Pulsar Survey and Timing Observations
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Fredrick A. Jenet and Dr. Teviet Creighton
Students working in this group will have the opportunity to control several of the world's largest radio telescopes from the Arecibo Remote Control Center (ARCC) located on the campus. They will be involved in pulsar survey
and timing observations. Using the data collected by these facilities, they will search for new radio pulsars and determine the various physical properties of the sources. The level and detail of their involvement will depend
on each individual student's interests and capabilities.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mario Diaz
The CGWA hosts a state of the art small astronomical observatory equipped with a 16" Schmidt-Cassegrain Meade, several CCD cameras, spectrographs and additional digital equipment. There are several short-term observational
projects including debris observation, photometric observations of eclipsing binary stars and variable stars (i.e. chromospherically variable stars) Students will learn how to observe, collect data utilizing the observatory
instrumentation, develop light curves for astronomical objects, analyze it and compare it with existing data for the same objects.
Molecular modeling of peptides
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Juan Guevara and Dr. Natalia Guevara
Molecular modeling has become a powerful tool used in molecular engineering. Students will learn the role of amino acids in protein structure and function. A student is expected to become familiar with and use the protein and
nucleic acid databases available in the public domain. Students will use the databases to retrieve information on essential structural elements in proteins of different function, for example, enzymes, transcriptional regulator
proteins, etc. Chimeric peptides will be designed from combination of structural elements from different molecules to obtain a new, engineered function. Each design will be evaluated using a molecular modeling program before synthetic
chimeras are obtained. Each chimera will be tested for bioactivity in lab and cell assays.
Single Molecule Biophysics Lab
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ahmed Touhami
We are interested in developing and applying new technologies for detecting, tracking, and manipulating single molecules in living cells. In particular we are combining optical trapping (OT) and single molecule fluorescence (SMF)
with real-time observations of the dynamic behavior of single proteins, to determine the mechanisms of action at the level of an individual molecule, and to explore heterogeneity among different molecules within a population. This
highly multidisciplinary project provides numerous research and training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to work at the interface of physics, chemistry, biology, and nanotechnology.
Nano-science and Advanced Materials
Superlattice structures for sustainable thermal energy harvesting
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Karen Martirosyan
Thermoelectric (TE) materials that generate electricity from waste heat sources are an ideal solution to the search for sustainable energy. The ZT of a thermoelectric material is a dimensionless unit that is used to compare the
efficiencies of various materials. We propose to increase ZT value of TE materials by assembling low-dimensional geometries combining single wall carbon nanotubes with layered perovskites to form superlattice periodical structures.
The superlattice structures will assist to enhance the thermal phonon scattering and increasing electron mobility, which improves TE efficiency. We plan to fabricate several nanostructured complexes by using methods that we recently
developed. The proposed research includes the following basic tasks: (i) identifying the stable superlattice structures for TE materials with high figures of merit ZT; (ii) producing p-type and n-type of TE matrix nanocomposites;
(iii) self- assembling fabrication and testing of TE devices suitable for small-scale power system for energy harvesting. The students will be exposed to the advanced nanostructured technology development.