Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington

IU Summer REU Research Projects in the Department of Physics

Here are a few examples of potential REU research projects based in the Department of Physics at Swain Hall West.


See Molecular Dynamics of Neutron Star Crust


Neural Networks and Dynamical Systems

Prof. John Beggs, Physics

Cortical slices and cultures are prepared from rat and mouse brains. These simplified slice networks are placed on advanced microelectrode arrays, allowing up to hundreds of individual spiking neurons to be sampled at high temporal resolution. We borrow concepts from statistical physics (models of frustrated magnetic materials, models of avalanching systems, models of complex networks) to describe the activity we see in data sets recorded with the microelectrode arrays. So far, we have found that all of these models are applicable to some extent, and that all are inadequate. A new way of looking at the brain is needed. Current projects on which undergraduates have worked include measuring information flow between neurons, modeling trajectories of network activity through a simplified state space, developing maximum entropy models to describe the probability distribution of network states, applying new measures of synergy between information flows to cellular automata models and to neurophysiological data. Programs are usually written in Matlab and run on single PCs, but more recently we have been porting these to computer clusters. Prof. Beggs has been at IU since 2003 and has already supervised six REU students as well as several IU undergraduates.

Visual Information Processing

Prof. Rob de Ruyter, Physics

Vision in animals, including humans, is based on an ongoing interpretation of optical signals gathered by the eye, and the physical properties of these highly complex signals put fundamental limits on visual information processing. With this in mind, using the blowfly as our model system, we study how a real organism processes visual signals. We record signals from photoreceptors that convert light into electrical signals and from neurons deep in the visual brain that are sensitive to moving visual patterns. We also study visually guided behavior in a specially developed flight tracker system. The fly uses adaptive computational strategies to cope with the complexity of the visual input data stream, and we try to understand these strategies on a quantitative basis, hoping to uncover fundamental principles of biological computation. Prof. De Ruyter joined the IU faculty in 2003 and has supervised three REU students and one IU undergraduate.

Condensed Matter

Controlled Synthesis and Characterization of Nanostructured Topological Crystalline Insulators

Prof. Shixiong Zhang

Topological crystalline insulators (TCIs) are a novel class of quantum materials that have unique metallic states on their surfaces. These surface states form a new type of high mobility chiral electron gas that is topologically protected against disorder. The TCIs are different from conventional topological insulators in the sense that they have an even number of surface Dirac cones instead of only one and their topological surface states are protected by the mirror symmetry of the crystal in contract to the time-reversal symmetry. Such materials are expected to have potential applications in several fields, including tunable electronics and spintronics. The REU students will perform bottom up synthesis of various types of TCI nanostructures and carry out nano-scale characterization of the physical properties. This project will provide students unique opportunities to participate in highly innovative and cutting-edge researches in the areas of condensed matter physics, materials science and nanotechnology. Prof. Zhang mentored one REU student before he joined the IU faculty.

Topological States of Matter

Prof. Babak Seradjeh

In the past decade, the theory and experimental promise of topologically ordered states has been greatly expanded beyond the paradigmatic quantum Hall effect, leading to the discovery of several families of two- and three-dimentional topological insulators and candidate topological superconductors. The electrons in these systems are inert in the bulk, yet cost vanishingly little energy to excite at the system boundaries or inside bulk defects. These topological "zero modes" are typically governed by the Dirac equation, leading to some spectacular properties, such as half-integer charge fractionalization, quantized magneto-electric effect, emergent magnetic monopoles, and nonlocal entanglement. The student in this project will investigate aspects of model topological insulators and superconductors by employing analytical and simple numerical methods using Mathematica or Matlab, or coding in C/C++/Fortran. The problems are designed to understand the fundamental principles governing the system, their connection to experiments, and potential applications and architectures for novel devices. The student will become familiar with relevant experiments, will learn the underlying concepts and a selection of theoretical techniques, including exact diagonalization, field theoretic, variational and perturbative methods.

Wave Propagation in Novel Structures

Prof. John Carini, Tim Londergan, Bill Schaich, Physics and Dave Murdock, Physics Tennessess Tech

The student will study the behavior of waves confined within waveguide and photonic crystal structures. Experimental projects have involved designing and building the structure and using a microwave network analyzer to look for novel behavior of the confined microwaves. Prof. Carini has supervised two REU students and two more in combined experimental-theoretical collaborations with Profs. Londergan and Schaich. In theory projects, the students will perform calculations for the analysis of resonances and current flows in waveguide geometries. Five REU students have been involved in theoretical projects with Prof. Londergan and Prof. Murdock in the past seven years.

Elementary Particle Experiment

The NOvA Neutrino Oscillation Experiment

Prof. Mark Messier, Physics

NOvA will measure the muon-to-electron neutrino oscillation using both neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. The anti-neutrino measurements are made possible by Fermilab’s ability to produce very intense beams and as part of NOvA we will be working to increase the intensity of the lab’s proton source. By measuring both neutrinos and anti-neutrinos NOvA will help to answer some basic questions about neutrinos and the universe. Students will develop and test event reconstruction software and use the standard tools of high energy physics to simulate detector performance and analyze events from the prototype detector. Prof. Messier has supervised four REU students in the past seven years.

Search for New Particles in the ATLAS Detector at the LHC

Dr. Daria Zieminska, Physics

The students will work on research projects related to the detection of new particles in the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider. Recent projects include: "Improving Event Selection in Top-Anti-Top Reconstruction" and "A Signature Of New Physics: Determining Missing Energy In The Atlas Detector." Dr. Zieminska has supervised three REU students in the past three years.
Vector and Scalar Bosons at D0 and ATLAS

Prof. Sabine Lammers, Physics

Students will analyze event data using software tools that are standard in particle physics, be able to present their work to other ATLAS scientists, and write up their results in a format that could be included in publication. The analysis of the data they collect will allow the students to acquire many of the skills they will need to succeed in PhD research in any field. Prof. Lammers joined the Department in 2008 and has mentored one REU student.

Elementary Particle Theory

Supersymmetric quantum mechanics

Prof. Mike Berger, Physics

The concept of supersymmetry has been applied to quantum mechanics to obtain relationships between potentials with similar spectra. The idea is closely connected to the method of Hamiltonian factorization. The REU project will involve studying the extension of these concepts to multiparticle Hamiltonians where multiple supersymmetries can be at play.

Theoretical Studies of Relativity Tests

Dr. Ralf Lehnert, Physics

Special relativity (SR) is one of the most basic and best confirmed theories physics. However, recent theoretical ideas in the context of new models beyond established physics suggest that there may, in fact, be the possibility of small departures from SR. Such hypothetical deviations from SR would affect many physical systems, such as the relation between energy and momentum for free particles. Predictions of this type can be employed for ultra-sensitive experimental tests of SR. This project involves modeling such deviations from SR with the goal to identify possible high-precision relativity tests. The prerequisites for research along these lines include an elementary knowledge of SR and basic undergraduate electrodynamics and quantum mechanics.

IU Summer REU Research Projects at the Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter/Nuclear Theory Center

Here are a few examples of potential REU research projects based at the Indiana University Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter.

Low Energy Neutron Source (LENS)

Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) Studies of Nanostructured Materials

Prof. David Baxter, Physics and CEEM

The presence of the LENS facility within the department offers a number of unique opportunities for undergraduate research on materials. Prof. Baxter has particular interest in the SANS technique which probes the mesoscopic structure of materials (length scales from 1 to 100 nm), and in studying hydrogenous materials that may be suitable for improved neutron moderators through neutron transmission experiments. With both techniques it is possible to introduce students to the fundamentals, collect data on several samples, and complete the analysis of suitable samples within a period of 5 to 8 weeks. Specific projects we envision pursuing with students supported by this grant include neutron transmission of materials that may be used in future very cold neutron (VCN). Publication of these data is eagerly anticipated by the VCN community as these data are needed for testing new simulation codes for future source design. SANS projects of interest include geological samples (clays and coals), bone, and nanoparticles ranging from virus capside surrounding magnetic nanoparticles to molecular-sized graphene sheets (produced by colleagues in Chemistry).

Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Chemistry Experiment

Many Body Nuclear Dynamics

Dr. Sylvie Hudan and Prof. Romualdo DeSouza, CEEM and Nuclear Chemistry

Many body nuclear dynamics examines the nuclear equation of state and the interplay between the statistical and dynamical break-up of nuclei under extreme conditions of density, temperature, shape, and isospin. Recent projects include Studying Nucleon Transport in Hot Nuclear Matter and Studying Mid-Peripheral Heavy-Ion Collisions. Dr. Hudan has supervised three REU students in the past five years.

Neutron spin rotation experiment

Prof. Mike Snow, Physics and CEEM

We are preparing an apparatus for an experiment to be performed at Los Alamos to search for possible exotic spin-dependent interactions of neutrons. In this project you will get the experience of putting together and testing components of a delicate precision experiment in collaboration with a group of driven maniacs dedicated experimentalists. Precisely what you end up doing will depend on whatever remaining unsolved issues threaten to make the experiment a complete disaster less successful than it could be. It could involve hacking on magnetic fields, aligning apparatus components, testing our rotating target system, putting together some electronics, dealing with magnetic shields,...

Development of nonmagnetic materials for exotic force searches

Profs. Mike Snow and Prof. Josh Long, Physics and CEEM

In this project your task is to help us try to develop the "perfect" nonmagnetic material. We don't want ferromagnetism, diamagnetism, or paramagnetism. The eventual purpose is to use this material in delicate tabletop experiment to search for possible exotic spin-dependent forces of nature. You will learn to conduct delicate magnetic measurements and (hopefully) improve upon the nonmagnetic stuff that we have come up with so far.

Neutrino Oscillations and Interactions

Prof. Rex Tayloe, IU Physics and CEEM

Prof. Tayloe works on neutrino oscillations and interactions. The students will work on neutrino detector development. For example, an optical fiber/liquid scintillator detector is under construction and is available to investigate neutrinos from nuclear reactors or neutrons from radioactive materials. A recent project was titled A Large-Volume, High Resolution Scintillation Detector for Monitoring of Thermal Power of a Nuclear Reactor.

Nuclear Physics Theory

Studies of Quark Pair Creation in the Gluon Field

Prof. Adam Szczepaniak, Physics and Nuclear Theory Center

The student will study properties of quark-gluon interactions in Quantum Chromodynamics formulated as a many-body, Hamiltonian system with physical degrees of freedom. The student will investigate the distribution of energy density in presence of quark and antiquark sources and its connection with phenomenological models of hadrons. Professor Szczepaniak has supervised five REU students working on theoretical projects in the past six years.

Molecular dynamics simulations of neutron star crust

Prof. Chuck Horowitz, Physics and Nuclear Theory Center

Neutron stars are extraordinarily dense objects more massive than the sun but only about 20 km across. The student will perform computer simulations to determine properties of the star's solid outer layers. See for example a Newscientist Web article Star crust 10 billion times stronger than steel.