Here are some sample projects from prospective mentors in the REU program, follwed by a broader overview of our research groups. Project descriptions will be added or refined as they become available. Some projects and faculty listed here may not be available in specific Summers, pending other faculty commitments.
Browne (statistical mechanics, condensed matter theory)
A possible statistical mechanics modeling project relates to atmospheric physics. The ascent velocity of high-altitude balloons for experimental astrophysics research is 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. Other projects could include applying statistical mechanics to modeling traffic flow and other condensed matter projects described below.
Chatzopoulos (computational astrophysics)
Dr. Chatzopoulos is specializing in computational astrophysics with emphasis in the
study of massive star evolution, supernovae and luminous transient events. This work
requires the understanding, use and extension of a variety of codes that have the
necessary physics components implemented to make predictions about the physical conditions
applicable to massive stars. These codes include the Stellar Evolution code MESA (Modules
for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics), the hydrodynamics code FLASH, the radiation
transport code SuperNu and Python packages for post-processing and data analysis.
1) Use the MESA stellar evolution code to compute the evolution of a massive star that suffered a recent merger event with a smaller companion. Make predictions about effects on nucleosynthesis and rotation rate and compare to known observations.
2) Extend supernova light curve modeling software to include alternative power input sources that can produce a superluminous supernova and test the models against observations.
3) 2- and 3-dimensional simulations of supernovae colliding with massive, dense, circumstellar shells of different geometries with the aim to study the effects of these collisions in the luminous output of these events.
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.
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.
- Variable Stars and exoplanets: Light variations from stars are caused by geometric changes, as in eclipsing binary systems or transiting exoplanets, or by physical changes from within the stars themselves or accretion disks around compact remnants such as black holes and neutron stars. Photometric data for several different kinds of variable objects have been obtained. These data await analysis. Example projects would include searching for exoplanets transits in high-fidelity lightcurves, searching for variable optical counterparts to X-ray sources associated with compact remnants, and analyzing periodic lightcurves to classify and characterize variables.
- R Coronae Borealis Stars: R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars form a small class of cool, carbon-rich supergiants that have almost no hydrogen. They undergo extreme, irregular declines in brightness of up to 8 magnitudes due to the formation of thick clouds of carbon dust. Two scenarios have been proposed for the origin of an RCB star: the merger of a CO/He WD binary and a final helium-shell flash. We are pursuing several areas of research to understand these enigmatic stars: a) Hydrodynamical simulations of the formation of RCB stars through the merger of two white dwarfs, b) Stellar evolution of RCB stars using the 1D MESA (Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics) stellar evolution code, c) Measuring the pulsation periods of RCB stars, and d) Studying the longterm (100 year) brightness variations in RCB stars.
- Massive star evolution, supernovae and luminous transient events. This work requires the understanding, use and extension of a variety of codes that have the necessary physics components implemented to make predictions about the physical conditions applicable to massive stars. These codes include the Stellar Evolution code MESA (Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics), the hydrodynamics code FLASH, the radiation transport code SuperNu and Python packages for post-processing and data analysis.
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. Students can also participate in experiments on LSU campus to better understand and manipulate the quantum noise in LIGO. 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.
In the quantum gravity group at LSU, fundamental questions about the origin of the universe and black hole singularities are addressed. Theoretical models are studied in quantum cosmology using analytical and numerical methods which capture non-trivial nature of spacetime near cosmological and black hole singularities. An REU student in our group will have opportunity to learn about the new physics near the big bang and quantum gravitational black holes. Projects will include developing numerical programs to simulate the behavior of the universe and black hole spacetimes using the analytical models.
A major effort of the group is to integrate materials synthesis, characterization, analysis, and design into a unique research and educational program for the training of the future science and technology workforce, which will face new challenges in a technology-driven society. Through the REU, undergraduate students are introduced to state-of-the-art facilities. One REU research topic will expose students to the development and characterization of novel materials in various forms, including sizable single crystals, thin films, and nanostructures. It will particularly emphasize novel synthesis and a variety of advanced characterizations, including materials “tuning,” “tailoring,” and surface/interface modification, aiming at optimizing materials functionalities. The primary objective is to provide students with a broad understanding of issues related to materials synthesis and characterization with particular attention given to the interrelationship between varieties of experimental techniques. Students will participate in the material growth and characterization efforts. They will enter into “an intimate relationship with the Periodic Table” and think intelligently about new materials with possible new properties by design. The integration of growth and characterization will certainly raise their interest in experimental condensed matter physics and material science.
REU students could work on synthesis of new superconductors, thermoelectrics, topological and magnetic materials, and measure their structures and physical properties at temperatures near absolute zero and in high magnetic fields. Some students could be involved in the synthesis and low temperature characterization of low dimensional correlated electron systems. Some students could participate in projects utilizing the CAMD synchrotron facility.
An REU student working in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics would assist with calculations in areas of interest including unconventional superconductivity, topological properties, interplay of magnetism and superconductivity, quantum criticality, and other aspects of electronic 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 analysis of different aspects of quantum 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 non-equilibrium 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.
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, Magana-Loaiza, 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)
The CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) Space Mission: The student will be involved with implementation of data analysis algorithms for the CALET International Space Station (ISS) experiment, which studies 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-led 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. Previous REU students have taken part in data analysis, laboratory tests, and development of the detector systems including testing on high altitude balloon flights.
Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs): Electric fields in lightning can accelerate electrons to very high energies, resulting in intense millisecond-duration bursts of gamma rays and high-energy X-rays. TGFs were initially detected on satellite experiments and are now being observed by the high-sensitivity ground-based TETRA project led by LSU. TETRA uses detectors on rooftops at LSU, at the University of Puerto Rico - Utuado, the Centro Nacional de Metrologia de Panama (CENAMEP) in Panama City, and the Severe Weather Institute and Radar & Lightning Laboratories in Huntsville. Students work with an international team on the detector fabrication and testing, modeling, and data analysis.
The experimental nuclear physics group at LSU runs a dynamic experimental program that aims at studying the fundamental structure of nuclei, nuclear decay, and nuclear reactions. In addition to advancing our understanding of the structure of matter, these studies often are of interest to a variety of fields. These include astrophysics, where we seek to understand the synthesis of the elements in stellar explosions, as well as applications to nuclear power and security. Students are involved in all aspects of this program, from the development, design, and construction of instrumentation to data taking and analysis to the interpretation of results. In addition to working in the labs at LSU, students often travel to an accelerator facility to perform experimental work during their REU program and/or have the opportunity to present their research at the American Physical Society's meeting of the Division of Nuclear 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 long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment T2K (Tokai to Kamiokande) or b) contribute to the development of new liquid argon detectors for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). Tasks will allow the student to learn about neutrino physics, develop skills in programming and the use of analysis software packages, as well as handling of laboratory equipment and data acquisition systems.