Research Projects

Both graduate and undergraduate students are required to participate in research as part of their degree program. The list below shows the research specialty of each of the faculty members, as well as some of the research projects they are working on.

Acoustics

Brian Anderson

Time reversal, nondestructive testing, communications, ultrasonics, electro-acoustic transduction, transducer arrays, elastic and fluid media

  • Remote Whispering Applying Time Reversal Acoustics

    Description: We are developing new techniques to target an individual in a room and communicate with them without the need for that individual to have any equipment.  Time reversal is a sound focusing technique that allows remotely placed loudspeakers to focus sound to a selected point in a room.  We use time reversal as the carrier signal to deliver signals to a target location so that the individual at that location can understand the signal but others in the room cannot understand it.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: MATLAB skills are useful

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/anderson/

  • Defect Imaging in Steel Using Time Reversal Nonlinear Acoustics

    Description:

    We are developing new techniques to locate and characterize cracking in stainless steel structures using ultrasonics.  In the United States, spent nuclear fuel is being stored inside stainless steel storage casks.  We wish to prevent leaks of these casks by detecting cracks before they penetrate through the walls of the container.  We use a sound focusing technique called time reversal to focus energy to inspection points.  We then analyze the focus of energy to determine whether that location exhibits nonlinear acoustic behavior, indicative of cracking.

    We will be using modifications to the traditional time reversal process to redo some nondestructive evaluation experiments that a recent graduate student did in order to determine whether they improve the ability to detect and locate cracks in steel. Preliminary experiments show this has a high chance of success.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: MATLAB skills are useful

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/anderson/

  • Ultrasonic Time Reversal Focusing in Air

    Description:

    This project will explore the use of time reversal to focus ultrasonic sound in air to create a high amplitude impulse of energy. We want to explore the limitations of doing this and what amplitudes are possible to achieve.  If the sound levels are high enough then we can explore some nonlinear acoustic phenomena that may create audible sound due to known nonlinear acoustic effects. This would create a phantom sound source.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: MATLAB skills are useful

  • Time Reversal for Exploding Balloons with Scattering

    Description:

    This project will explore the impact of placing objects next to a sound source to change how the sound radiates away from the source. Time reversal has been shown to improve when objects are placed next to a source. This project would likely involve exploding balloons and lots of time reversal experiments.

     

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: MATLAB skills are useful

  • Numerical Modeling of Time Reversal in Rooms

    Description: A recent graduate student completed a project on this and there are extensions of his work I'd like a student to work on.  These models explored the use of time reversal in various different rooms to see how the room affects the possible quality of the time reversal focusing.  One specific aspect to be done is to apply signal processing modifications to the time reversal process and see if the same conclusions hold as for the traditional time reversal process.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: MATLAB programming is what this project is all about, you can learn MATLAB on this project

Kent Gee

Nonlinear acoustics, physical acoustics, aeroacoustics, acoustics education, active noise control

  • Environmental Noise Monitoring and Modeling

    Description: I am working with Dr. Transtrum and graduate students on a project to use machine learning and geospatial features (nighttime radiance, precipitation, forests, etc.) to predict ambient soundscapes throughout the U.S., and eventually, globally.  We have a need for an outdoor-oriented student interested in conducting making sound measurements in different urban and rural environments, formatting the data outputs, and helping to feed them into the machine learning models created by the graduate students.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students

    Needed Skills:

    Experience with Excel useful.  Likely requires some hiking from time to time.

    Programming experience in Matlab or Python a plus.

    Interest in learning about acoustics and instrumentation.

  • Research in shock waves and high-amplitude acoustics

    Description:

    Come analyze F-22, F-35, rocket, or explosion data for NASA and the U.S. military.  Other possibilities exist - email me to set up an appointment.  Numerous publication opportunities are likely.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills:

     

     

Timothy Leishman

Audio and architectural acoustics. Excitation, measurement, modeling, and control of sound fields. Transducers, active control of sound and vibration, energy-based acoustics, and acoustical measurements.

Traci Neilsen

Numerical acoustics

  • Volcano Noise Modeling

    Description: Volcano infrasound contains a lot of information about the type and strength of an eruption.  An upcoming geohazards workshop, summer 2018, provides the opportunity to learn more about how to interpret the infrasound and relate it to the strength of the volcano.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students

    Needed Skills: Willingness to learn acoustical measurement techniques and signal processing.

  • Machine learning in Underwater Acoustics

    Description: 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. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

    Needed Skills:

    Desire to learn about machine learning.

    Computer coding experience (Matlab or other) is helpful.

Scott Sommerfeldt

Active and passive noise control; energy-based acoustics

  • Acoustic Resonator Design

    Description: This work focuses on developing improved models of acoustic resonators.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

    Needed Skills: Matlab, acoustic measurement skills

  • Active Structural Acoustic Control of Shells

    Description: This project focuses on minimizing the acoustic sound power radiated from cylindrical shells.

    Suitable For:
    Graduate Students

  • Measuring Acoustic Sound Power Using SLDV Measurements

    Description: Scanning Laser Doppler Vibrometer (SLDV) measurements provide vibration measurements of a structure in a noncontact manner.  This data can be used to determine the sound radiated from the structure, and this project looks at trying to use the information to come up with an accurate estimate of the radiated sound power.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

Astronomy

Eric Hintz

Variable stars across the HR diagram (Observational), Astronomy Education Research

  • Variable Star Search in Open Clusters

    Description: We are currently searching for new low amplitude variable stars in a large sample of open clusters. The clusters cover a wide range of ages and will provide a evolutionary test of how the variable stars change with age. We are also looking for very small eclipses that might be the sign of a planet.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: To start with the skills which come from Phscs 329 are sufficient. To get the most out of the data it would help to have the skills taught in Phscs 529.

  • Spectroscopic Survey of Northern Sky delta Scuti Variables

    Description: To understand the nature of the delta Scuti variables in the instability strip one needs as much information as possible about the stars. However, an examination of the catalog of delta Scuti variables shows a lack of basic information on many of the group. Of the 247 delta Scuti stars visible in the northern hemisphere we currently have spectra of 242 of them. These need to be reduced to provide estimates of some basic stellar properties like [Fe/H], radial velocity, rotational velocity, and perhaps information on any binary companions.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Skills from Phscs 529 useful. If willing you could learn the skills as you go along.

  • Spectrophotometic Comparison of H-alpha and H-beta Index

    Description: Traditionally the H-beta index has been used as a reddening free index to measure the surface temperature of stars. Prof. Joner in the department has developed a new H-alpha index that has great promise. We are working together to spectrophotometrically compare the two systems.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: The skills of Phscs 529 would be a great deal of help. However, you could learn the spectral reductions as you went along.

  • Observations of High Mass X-ray Binaries

    Description: These are binary star systems with one very massive star (O or B) and a compact object in orbit about the primary. The compact object could be either a neutron star or a black hole. We are monitoring these systems to watch for short and long term variations that will give us clues about the interaction of the two components.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Basic telescope observing skills and IRAF data reduction skills are needed. Much of this could be learned on the fly.

  • Astronomy Education

    Description: I'm currently working on a number of projects to do with astronomy education.

    1) The primary program at this point is work with Computer Science to develop a system to allow a deaf audience to watch a planetarium show using a heads-up display.

    2) We are also examining our constellation quiz to provide a baseline level and determine which constellations and bright stars students know when they start the class. The constellation part of this project will be used as part of project 1 as well.

    3) We are working to establish baseline understanding of the Universe in elementary school age children in the US and China. This will feed back into the first project listed.

    4) Will likely do a modified project on teaching moon phases to improve on a past MS project.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: At this point there really isn't any special skills required to get started. Just an interest in how to best teach astronomy/physics concepts.

  • Period Changes in Medium Amplitude delta Scuti Variables

    Description: In general, researchers consider there to be two groups of delta Scuti variables; the High Amplitude delta Scuti (HADS) and the Low Amplitude delta Scuti (LADS). However, the in between realm is interesting. The Medium Amplitide delta Scuti stars seems to show a range of changes in both amplitude and period. This makes them a very interesting group to monitor. Often we participate with astronomers from around the world in taking data for these projects.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: The skill of Phscs 329 are useful, but not entirely required to get started.

Mike Joner

Transiting Exoplanets, Active Galaxies, Pulsating Variable Stars and Extragalactic Photometry

  • Photometric Reverberation Mapping

    Description: Traditional reverberation mapping to estimate AGN black hole masses uses a combination of photometry and spectroscopy to determine the time lag between variations that occur at the accretion disk and then later in the broad line region. With such techniques, there is a need for a large amount of moderate to large telescope time in order to secure the spectroscopic data with an observing cadence suitable for a determination of the time lag. Photometric reverberation mapping uses a single epoch spectroscopic determination of the broad line region velocity and a time lag determination based on photometric observations that include predominantly continuum features or broad line components that can be seen to vary at a later time. This technique is still being tested but hold promise for the determination of black hole masses in the age of several large scale surveys.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Students are welcome to join this effort if they are willing to work at the West Mountain Observatory to secure the precision observations needed to investigate this interesting technique. Data reduction skills and computer programing along with analysis of models and simulated data sets is also a valuable skill.

Joseph Moody

Galaxy nuclear variability, remote observing, large-scale galaxy distribution

  • Testing the standard model of active galactic nuclei through automated multi-color broadband CCD imaging

    Description: Remote Observatory for Variable Object Research is a 16" RC Optical telescope on a Paramount pier sited near Delta Utah. Operational since 2008, it is used to remotely monitor active galactic nuclei (AGNs) which includes blazars, quasars, Seyfert nuclei and Low Ionization Nuclear Emission Regions, or LINERS. The standard model of AGNs assumes each is a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disk. The disk is fed by a more extensive lower-density region surrounding it. The disk brightens and dims as gas falls upon it and as dusty clouds orbiting around it obscure it from our view. Optical variability measures these effects providing data that can be used to model the specific nature of different AGNs.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Computer programming
    Digital data manipulation
    Mechanical skills
    Patience
    Innovation
    Horse sense

    More Information: http://rovor.byu.edu

Darin Ragozzine

Planetary Science, Astrophysics, Exoplanets, Astrostatistics

  • Studying the Architectures of Exoplanetary Systems

    Description:

    Like our Sun, other stars are known to host planetary systems. As we continued to discover many more exoplanetary systems, we learn about how these systems are put together. The "architecture" of these systems (are small planets on the inside or outside? how close are the planets to each other? etc.) gives us invaluable clues to the formation of planetary systems. I used state-of-the-art statistical and computational techniques to discovery new exoplanetary systems, study existing systems, and remove the biases on their properties from our limited observational methods. I have many projects at different levels and durations available for students. Please contact me for more information. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills:

    No skill is absolutely necessary, but the following will increase the complexity of the project you can take on: scientific computing introductory physics, astronomy, and/or planetary science; statistics; upper-level mechanics; etc. In addition, research in general requires a passion for science and the desire to solve complex problems on your own. 

  • Orbits in the Outer Solar System

    Description: Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a population of icy bodies whose orbits can reveal unique information about how our solar system formed. This region of the solar system is called the Kuiper Belt and these small icy bodies are called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs or sometimes Trans-Neptunian Objects or TNOs), though some are large enough to also qualify as "dwarf planets" like Pluto and Haumea. There are multiple projects available in my research group to study KBO satellites (e.g., Haumea's moons) and KBO orbits (e.g., the Haumea and other collisional families). There are a variety of projects available at a variety of levels. Please contact me for more information. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: No skill is absolutely necessary, but the following will increase the complexity of the project you can take on: scientific computing introductory physics, astronomy, and/or planetary science; statistics; upper-level mechanics; etc. In addition, research in general requires a passion for science and the desire to solve complex problems on your own. 

Denise Stephens

Brown Dwarfs, Transiting Planets, Young Stellar Objects, IR Observing, Space Telescopes

  • Transiting Exoplanets

    Description: Take data with the 16" telescope on the roof of the Eyring Science Center of stars that may have transiting planets.  Reduce this data using IRAF and AstroimageJ software.  Characterize the radius of the planet (if we see a transit) by fitting the transit light curve.  Return results to the team so that we can either obtain further observations of a possible planet candidate or expire the target as spurious or an eclipsing binary star system.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills:

    Available in the evenings to observe and willing to learn how to use the 16" telescope on the roof.

    Knowledge of IRAF and AstroimageJ data reduction tools.

  • Brown Dwarf Binary Systems

    Description: Looking at peculiarities in the spectra of known binary brown dwarfs. Trying to understand the large number of L/T transition binaries, and why the spectra of these objects change so quickly over a constant temperature range. We want to determine binary statistics with spectral type, and how many of the L/T objects are truly single objects. We want to understand which spectral features vary the most between a single brown dwarf and an unresolved binary system, so we can use these spectral features as a way to identify binaries from existing spectra. Eventually we will use high resolution photometry and psf fitting to identify marginally resolved and unresolved binaries.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Knowledge of IRAF or IDL.
    Ability to write computational programs.

  • High resoluion spectra of T dwarfs

    Description: Analyze and reduce high resolution spectra of late T dwarfs to look for evidence and measure the abundance of ammonia bands in the near-infrared.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Must be able to reduce astronomy using IDL, and understand how to reduce spectroscopy.

  • Variability in Brown Dwarfs

    Description: Reduce Spitzer observations of 3 brown dwarfs taken sequentially in time to look for evidence of variability. If variability exists, the amplitude is very low. The evidence of variability would suggest that cloud features or holes in the clouds are not homogeneously distributed across the surface.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Reduce Spitzer photometry. Write a program that look for low amplitude variabililty.

Atomic, Molecular, and Optical

David Allred

Ultraviolet Optics for Space Telescopes, Thin films, Nanostructures-MEMS, Mars Simulations, alternate energy issues (solar. batteries etc.)

  • Advanced Mirror Coatings for Hubble's successor

    Description: In 1999 the IMAGE spacecraft was successfully launched and functioned for over 6 years studying the various plasma filled regions surrounding the earth (ionosphere to magnetosphere) in wavelengths from radio through EUV. We designed and coated mirrors for the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) instrument, which was one of about four observational components of the IMAGE Mission. IMAGE, which stands for Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration, was a NASA funded Medium Explorer (MIDEX) program) [1].

    We are now working with NASA scientist and engineers in the process of designing, fabricating and testing novel mirror coatings for the next generation space observatory. The flag-ship mission that comes after the James Web Telescope and WFIRST.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills:

    Various skills for various tasks :

    Fabrication/test skills

    1) interest in vacuum systems, electronics,  machining, remote control, and/or optics.

    Design:
    1) computer languages or interests

    Helpful:

    1. the ability to spend a summer at NASA Goddard

    2. the ability to take a long weekend to go to the ALS (Advanced Light Source) at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on BYU-funded trip to measure EUV optical properties of mirrors.

  • Advanced Materials for Nuclear Energy

    Description:

    We are able to produce as thin films existing and novel materials for nuclear energy that cannot easily made at other universities.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills:

    1.  Curiosity

    2. Drive to make the world better through material science.

    3. Desire to use modern scientific equipment

    4 helpful:

    a. some knowledge of elementary electrical circuits and/or hand tools

    b. some knowledge of modern phyics.


  • BYU's Entry into the University Rover Challenge

    Description: Help prepare mars simulation rover for annual competition near Hanksville, UT  June 1 http://urc.marssociety.org/home/about-urc  Specifically help the science team design on-rover test for life. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: interest in building things like robots.  also remote control and Ham are useful but not required.

    More Information: http://marsrover.byu.edu/

  • Heavily doped p-type zinc oxide for UV optoelectronic devices

    Description: Zinc oxide- especially heavily doped p-type material. This is a promising material for UV optoelectronics applications including UV lasers, light emitting diodes, and visible light-blind detectors. It also has applications in piezoelectricity, spintronics, transparent electronics, and as a substrate for the growth of other materials.


    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Physics 140,  physics 145 ( may be concurrent), Physics 220 or equivalent are helpful. 

  • optical constants of metals, semiconductors & insulators

    Description:

    1.  we use ellipsometer in Chemistry C387 BNSN

    2. we measure Optical Constants in VUV in U161 with R. Steven Turley

     

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Atomic layer & chemical vapor infiltration of C nanotube forests.

    Description: Atomic layer and chemical vapor infiltration of carbon nanotube forests with metals such as tungsten to make three-dimensional microstructures for MEMS applications. This work is closely aligned with that of Prof. Robert C. Davis and Richard R. Vanfleet.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: 1st 2 years of physics are helpful but not required.

Scott Bergeson

Laser cooling, ultracold plasmas, laser spectroscopy, biophotonics (experimental)

  • Ultra-cold Plasmas

    Description:

    We are making ultra-cold plasma by photo-ionizing laser-cooled calcium atoms in a Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT). The trap size is about 1 mm and it holds about 10 million calcium atoms at a temperature of 0.001 K above absolute zero. The ultracold plasma is formed when we shine in two laser pulses that ionize all of the atoms.

    The plasma is "strongly coupled", meaning that the average "nearest-neighbor" Coulomb energy is orders of magnitude larger than the mean thermal energy of particles in the plasma. A strongly coupled plasma behaves in some ways more like a solid than a gas. One of our major research goals is to understand how strong coupling changes basic processes like recombination and collisional ionization.

    We use calcium to create this plasma because the energy level scheme in Ca is favorable for laser cooling and trapping. The blue wavelengths for both Ca and Ca+ are easily generated with standard laser technology. So when plasma is created we can measure the ion temperature and plasma density in a straightforward manner.

    Our newest two projects are using lasers to cool the ions in the plasma, and also generating a plasma with both Ca and Yb ions at the same time. This last project will allow us to study the approach to thermal equilibrium in a two-temperature and two-mass system.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Dallin Durfee

Lensless Imaging, Optics and Lasers, Matterwave interferometry, Laser Cooling (Experimental)

  • Matterwave Interferometry

    Description: Quantum mechanics tells us that atoms are waves. As such, it is possible to make them interfere in a manner similar to the interference of light in a Michelson-Morley interferometer or in a Young’s double slit experiment. Optical interferometers have been used to measure a great many things with very high precision. This high precision is due to the very short wavelength of light. Atom waves can have much smaller wavelengths, and should be able to outperform optical interferometers in many applications. Also, since atoms have properties such as rest mass, a magnetic moment, etc., it is possible to measure some things with atom interferometers which can’t be done with an optical interferometer. Some things we want to do with our interferometer are to demonstrate high-precision inertial force sensing and to measure whether the fundamental constants in physics are slowly changing in time.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Most of what you need to know you will learn on the job. Some things that are helpful to know include optics (what you learn in Physics 123 is a good start), electronics, the basics of machining, and quantum mechanics, but my most successful students tend to be the ones who begin early rather than waiting until they have taken advanced physics courses.

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/durfee/research/default.htm

John Ellsworth

Laboratory Nuclear Astrophysics

Steve Turley

Extreme ultraviolet optics and thin films

  • Extreme Ultraviolet Optics

    Description: I am working on a project with Prof. David Allred and a group of undergraduate and graduate students that began with designing and testing a mirror for the Medium Exploror (MIDEX) Program. The research involves computer-aided optical design, multilayer mirror fabrication, measurement of optical properties of materials, and design and fabrication of test and measurement components. Measurements are made both at our facilities at BYU and at the Advanced Light Source at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Depending on the area of involvement, some of the following skils and/or experience could be valuable (I'm also willing to work with students to develop skills they have not yet acquired, but would like to learn): computer programming (Mathematica or C#), vacuum systems, computer interface of experiments, statistical data anlysis, thin film optics, basic machine shop use.

  • Effects of Roughness of Reflectance

    Description: Simple calculations of optical reflection and transmission from surfaces assume flat surfaces with abrupt interfaces. These assumptions are often sufficiently incorrect to lead to significant errors in computing the optical properties of mirrors and coatings in the extreme ultraviolet. We have several projects which involve computing the of surface roughness on the optical properties of thin films. The projects involve numerically solving Maxwell's equations from first principles on representative surfaces and developing algorithms to apply the results to general surfaces.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Some programming experience would be very helpful. You should be willing to learn the ideas behind supercomputer programming, FORTRAN, and have some facility with Mathematica.

Michael Ware

Quantum Optics

  • Computing electron behavior in high-intensity laser interactions

    Description:

    When high-intensity lasers interact with materials, they rip electrons from atoms and pull them around at nearly the speed of light.  We study electrons under these extreme conditions using MATLAB coding.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

    Needed Skills:

    To be successful in this project, a student will need to have some programming experience.  Physics 330 is sufficient preparation, or we can train you without that course if you have a good programming background.

  • Single photon radiation from relativistic electrons

    Description: We are building an experiment to measure the radiation produced by an accelerated electron with a large quantum-mechanical wave packet.  This experiment uses extremely high intensity lasers along with single-photon detectors to study the behavior of matter at the most fundamental level.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: A basic understanding of quantum mechanics and optics will be helpful. We can usualy work on the rest if you have the motivation.

  • Measuring Nuclear Decay Rates

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Condensed Matter

Branton Campbell

Materials physics - nanoscale structure property relationships (Experimental)

  • Binary alloys

    Description: My group collaborates with Professor Gus Hart the discovery of novel alloys of Pt that have been predicted from first principles calculations, but never observed in nature. This work involves sample preparation, x-ray and neutron diffraction experiments, and extensive data analysis.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: No prerequisites. Students become familiar with compositionally-ordered alloys and the Rietveld analysis of powder diffraction data (i.e. finding out how the atoms are arranged in crystals).

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/campbell/

  • X-ray scattering from embedded nanostructures

    Description: I am currently applying state-of-the-art x-ray and neutron scattering techniques to study the local and intermediate-range structure of solid-state materials.  Systems of interest include the fast-ion conductors, ferroelectric relaxors, and colossal magnetoresistive manganites, where nanoscale structural features can be manipulated to determine the macroscopic physical properties.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/campbell

  • Magnetic structures from neutron diffraction

    Description: We are exploring the use of symmetry principles to simplify the discovery and characterization of novel magnetic structures in solid-state materials. This work involves experimental (neutron diffraction), theoretical (group theory) and computational (ultimate curve fitting) aspects.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: No prerequisites. Students will need to become familiar with crystal symmetries, basic group theory, diffraction experiments, and metal-oxide sample preparation.

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/campbell/

  • Structural phase transitions

    Description: We are currently collaborating with Professor Harold Stokes to develop interactive software tools for computing and visualizing structural distortions in crystalline materials.

    http://stokes.byu.edu/isodistort.html

    Student researchers have the opportunity to apply these state-of-the-art tools to solve materials physics problems in advanced materials like superconductors, piezoelectrics and magnetoresistors.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: No prerequisites. Students will need to become familiar with crystal symmetries, basic group theory, and the Linux operating system.

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/campbell/

Karine Chesnel

Magnetic nanostructures

  • Magnetic properties in nanomaterials

    Description: We study magnetic properties in matter at the nanoscopic scale. Tools we use include magnetometry techniques (VSM, EHE, SMOKE), magnetic microscopy (MFM) and synchrotron techniques (XMCD, XMRS, magnetic speckles...). Types of systems we study vary from thin films (ferromagnetic, exchange bias), superparamagnetic nanoparticles, magnetically dopped materials with interesting electronic and optical properties...

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    More Information: http://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/chesnel/default.aspx

John Colton

Optical spectroscopy of semiconductors, with an emphasis in spin properties and semiconductor nanostructures

  • Semiconductor nanoparticles in ferritin

    Description: Ferritin is a hollow protein about 10 nm in diameter, and can be used as a template for creating semiconductor nanoparticles. The particles form inside the protein shell. We're investigating ways to synthesize the nanoparticles, and their properties once synthesized, especially for solar cell applications. There's also a cool possible application for fighting cancer that we may be pursuing, binding fluorescent nanoparticles to cancerous cells and using them to image the tumor. This research is done in collaboration with Richard Watt, a BYU chemistry professor

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Platinum nanoparticles

    Description: Ferritin semiconductor nanoparticles can be used to help metallic platinum nanoparticles form. Platinum is well known as a catalyst, and nanoparticles are great catalysts because of the extremely high surface area to volume ratio. We've been making these nanoparticles and are looking to use them as photocatalysts for using optical energy to produce hydrogen gas... initially via a UV light-catalyzed reaction using a chemical called "methyl viologen" but hopefully eventually by using solar energy to split water molecules.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • ZnO thin films

    Description: Zinc oxide is a semiconductor that potentially has good optical properties that should allow it to be used to make semiconductor devices such as LEDs and lasers. However, to make such devices you need both “n-type” and “p-type” material. (N-type has extra electrons compared to what is needing for bonding; p-type has an electron deficit.) ZnO tends to naturally form as n-type and it's traditionally been very hard to make good quality p-type ZnO, but we're working with faculty member David Allred and visiting professor Gary Renlund to develop a new synthesis technique. We've been doing film growth on substrates coated with ZnAs using a sputtering technique, and optical investigations of the resulting material. For that matter, we plan to publish a paper on the ZnAs coating that we’ve produced along the way.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Nanoparticles as temperature sensors

    Description: We're working with a mechanical engineering professor (Troy Munro) to use semiconductor nanoparticles as temperature sensors. The wavelengths of light present in the nanoparticles' photoluminescence (aka fluorescence), and the time it takes for the luminescence to be emitted after the electrons have been excited both depend on the temperature. By characterizing the nanoparticles’ photoluminescence spectrum in both wavelength and time as a function of temperature, we hope to be able to use the nanoparticles as non-invasive temperature sensors in e.g. medical applications. For example, one could use the optical emission from nanoparticles injected into tissue to monitor temperatures as focused ultrasound is used to heat up and destroy tumors.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Robert Davis

Micro and Nanoscale Materials (experimental)

  • Nanostructures and Micromachines

    Description: We are developing three dimensional microscale structures from vertically grown nanotube forests. We are using films of carbon atoms, few atoms thick, to make ultrastrong materials. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Biomolecular Electronics

    Description: Carbon nanotubes, proteins and nucleic acids are candidate structures for self assembled molecular electronic materials for sensing and the internet of things. .

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Biological Separations

    Description: This work is focused on capture of cells and molecules using precision filters for the detection of cancer and antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

Benjamin Frandsen

Condensed Matter Physics--Local structure investigations of complex materials using x-ray, neutron, and muon techniques

  • Atomic and magnetic structure investigations of complex materials

    Description: One of the first steps toward understanding any given material of interest (a new superconductor, an unusual magnetic material, an energy-related compound, etc) is determining its atomic and magnetic structure. We utilize beams of x-rays, neutrons, and muons at large-scale accelerator facilities to do just that. Our primary experimental techniques include atomic and magnetic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis, conventional x-ray and neutron scattering, and muon spin relaxation/rotation. A few times a year, we visit these types of facilities to collect data, and then we come back home to analyze and make sense of it all. Through this process, we hope to shed light on the origin of the material's properties by gaining a detailed understanding of the local and average atomic and magnetic structure.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Open source, python-based software for atomic and magnetic structure

    Description: Data are only useful if we can understand them, and to understand them, we often need specialized tools. We are currently developing open source, python-based software tools to analyze experimental data collected from condensed matter experiments using x-ray, neutron, and muon beams. The software will maximize research effectiveness and enable new methods of analysis not only for our own research group, but also for the wider community of condensed matter physicists using similar types of experimental methods.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Gus Hart

Computational Materials Physics

  • Machine Learning for Discovering New Materials

    Description: We are developing mathematics, algorithms, and software to discover the new materials that will define the next age of human civilization. Stone, Bronze, Iron, Steel, Silcon,...what material will define the next age? We are building a "virtual laboratory" so that artificially intelligent computers can discover the materials of tomorrow.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Students must be be motivated to learn and must dependably balance research time with other studies, family responsibilities, etc. Funding is available for all students who so demonstrate.

    Few of my successful students in the past had prior knowledge in solid state physics or had abilities such as programming and using Linux/Unix. Such things are nice but exerting the effort to learn is more important. 

    Students should embrace the opportunity to learn new mathematics, new software engineering practices, to work on a team. Students must be dependable. This is not the group to join if you are just trying to graduate.

  • Materials simulation: Algorithm development and applications

    Description: Our group focuses on computer simulation of materials for the purpose of discovering new materials that have exceptional properties. There are two aspects of the research: 1) developing new approaches, algorithms, and mathematics that can be used in simulation, and 2) applying existing and new approaches to find new materials. Both aspects are challenging and require participating students to move far outside their comfort zone and learn things that won't be part of a regular physics or CS degree.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Students must be be motivated to learn and must dependably balance research time with other studies, family responsibilities, etc. Funding is available for all students who so demonstrate.

    Few of my successful students in the past had prior knowledge in solid state physics or had abilities such as programming and using Linux/Unix. Such things are nice but exerting the effort to learn is more important.

    Students should embrace the opportunity to learn new mathematics, new software engineering practices, to work on a team. Students must be dependable. This is not the group to join if you are just trying to graduate.

Mark Transtrum

Theoretical and Computational Complex Systems

  • Information theory of multi-parameter models

    Description: 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.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

  • Computational methods for exploring high-dimensional parameter spaces

    Description: Modern computers enable large models of complex processes.  These models often involve a large number of parameters and a relevant question is often how the model's behavior depends on the parameter values.  Because the parameter space is high-dimensional, a brute force search will never be possible for models with more than a few parameters.  We are developing novel computational methods for efficiently and intelligently exploring these high-dimensional parameter spaces.  This project uses theoretical insights based on information theory and applies sophisticated techniques in computational differential geometry, automatic differentiation, and topology with high-performance computing.  Our goal is to improve algorithms for fitting models to data, performing statistical sampling, and classifying regimes of distinct model behaviors. 

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

  • Modeling Complex Energy Systems

    Description: Models of energy systems involve a large number of heterogeneous components connected in complex networks.  Detailed models of these systems constructed from physical first principles are similarly complicated and involve a large number of unknown parameters.  In spite of their detail and complexity, models often have limited predictive capability because it is difficult to identify the model, i.e., find accurate values for all of the parameters.  Our goals it develop models that are sufficiently complex to capture the rich behavior of real power systems, but simple enough so that all the parameters can be learned from data.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

  • Modeling Complex Biological Systems

    Description: Biological systems are rich in the types of behavior they can exhibit.  This is enabled through a complex web of components.  In the case of development biology, the relevant components are networks of chemical reactions while in neuroscience, it is a combination of electrical and biochemical signals.  In both cases, the complex system responds to external stimuli and performs calculations to formulate an appropriate response.  The complexity of these systems is overwhelming.  New theoretical and computational tools are needed to organize our knowledge of these processes and compress it into a coherent theory.  Our research tries to develop minimal models from these "parts lists" in order to summarize and organize our understanding of biological and neurological processes.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

  • Superconducting Materials for next generation particle accelerators

    Description: Particle accelerators are are 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 underly 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, accounting for details such as surface roughness, grain boundaries, and material inhomogeneities.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

  • Machine Learning on Acoustic data sets

    Description: Sound is one of the fundamental ways we observe our environment.  In collaboration with acousticians at BYU and Blue Ridge Research and Consulting, we use machine learning techniques to predict ambient sound levels from environmental parameters (such as the distance to a road or local population densities).  Our models will ultimately be useful for a variety of applications including military mission planning, public health, urban development, and ecology.  We also use machine learning to predict crowd dynamics from acoustic data sets.  Can analysis of acoustic data collected at sporting events be used to infer the shifting mood of a diverse crowd?  If so, can acoustic monitoring be used to improve law enforcement responses to crowds before they become violent?

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: - Programming experience in Python/Julia/or other scripting language
    - Multivariate Calculus/Ordinary Differential Equations
    - Computational Physics Tools

    More Information: https://www.physics.byu.edu/faculty/transtrum/ResearchProjects.html

Richard Vanfleet

Atomic and near atomic scale studies of materials by transmission electron microscopy (experimental)

  • Atomic and near atomic scale studies of materials by Transmission Electron Microscopy.

    Description: We attempt to determine in as direct observational way as possible the way materials actually chose to arrange themselves. This is often in contrast to how man has attempted to arrange them. We are interested in the structural arrangement of atoms as well as the elemental and bonding arrangements of atoms within nanometer scale features of the sample. An undergraduate would learn to prepare samples for TEM analysis as well as learn the basics of TEM operation to analyze their samples in the TEM.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Plasma

Grant Hart

Computational investigation of non-neutral plasma physics

Theoretical and Mathematical

Manuel Berrondo

QFT, Quantum Dynamics, Quantum Chemistry, Holistic Dynamics

Eric Hirschmann

General relativity, nonlinear field theories, computational physics

  • General relativistic compact binaries

    Description:

    We are interested in all aspects of compact object binary mergers (black holes and neutron stars).  This includes predicting the gravitational and electromagnetic radiation from such systems as well as constraining the properties of dense matter in such mergers.

    This work involves large scale computation and necessitates developing numerical algorithms for solving the nonlinear partial differential equations of general relativity and radiation magnetohydrodynamics.   

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

    Needed Skills:


  • Relativistic magnetohydrodynamics

    Description:

    Past, present and future projects include

    1.   Establishing the characteristic structure of the equations of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) in different formulations.
    2.   Studying the instabilities and waves associated with this system in different geometries.  
    3.   Developing constraint preserving boundary conditions for GRMHD.
    4.   Developing simulations in 1D, 2D and 3D for flat space MHD.  

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

  • General relativisitic equilibrium models of magnetars

    Description:

    We would like to construct axisymmetric, general relativistic, equilibrium models of neutron stars with ultra-strong magnetic fields (magnetars).  Physics inputs include poloidal and toroidal magnetic fields, realistic equations of state for the matter, differential rotation and convective motions.  

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

  • Charged black holes in higher dimensions

    Description: The Kerr-Newman black hole is the charged, rotating black hole in 4 dimensions.  The 5 dimensional version is not known.  Using numerical techniques we are trying to construct it.  

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students

David Neilsen

General relativity; relativistic astrophysics; fluid dynamics; parallel computing

  • General Relativity

    Description: General relativity describes gravitational phenomena geometrically as curvature in spacetime: Matter curves space, and the spacetime curvature affects matter. General relativity predicts that accelerating objects can emit gravitational radiation. While this radiation is typically extremely weak, some astrophysical systems, such as colliding black holes or neutron stars, may emit gravitational waves that we can detect on Earth. Large, kilometer scale laser interferometers, such as LIGO, are being constructed to study gravitational wave signals from these events. Unfortunately, we currently know very little about the radiation expected from the regions of spacetime with the strongest (nonlinear) gravitational fields. I study computational methods for solving the Einstein equations for these strong-field gravitational wave sources. Various projects are available to investigate black hole spacetimes, black hole formation, and properties of the Einstein equations. All projects require writing, testing, and running computer codes to investigate nonlinear gravitational phenomena.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

    Needed Skills: Students should plan on spending a significant amount of time learning the fundamentals of general relativity, tensor analysis and computational methods as part of their research.

  • Relativistic fluid dynamics (RFD)

    Description: Neutron star collapse, supernovae, gamma-ray sources, etc., are some of the exciting topics in relativistic astrophysics, and the perfect fluid is the fundamental model for all of these. I study relativistic perfect fluids near black holes using computational methods. In particular, Eric Hirschmann, Steven Millward and I at BYU are studying a magnetized fluid around a black hole with computational Magneto-Hydrodynamics (MHD). Various computational projects are available in RFD and MHD, which require writing, testing and running computer programs to model relativistic fluids.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Numerical methods

    Description: Research with the Einstein equations and RFD requires sophisticated numerical methods and techniques (as well as cheats and tricks). Some techniques include adaptive mesh refinement (AMR), parallel computing, high-resolution shock-capturing methods for fluid equations. Some systems, such as moving black holes, may naturally be solved in multiple reference frames simultaneously. I am investigating the use of overlapping computational grids for these problems. One particular interest is combining modern fluid methods with overlapping grids.

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

Jean-Francois Van Huele

all aspects of quantum theory, especially quantum dynamics and quantum information

  • Quantum Dynamics

    Description: Study of time evolution of quantum systems

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students

  • Quantum Information

    Description: Studies in entanglement, uncertainties, and measurement

    Suitable For:
    Undergraduate Students
    Graduate Students
    REU Students