The 2021 REU students and research mentors at UW Bothell.
The Physics REU program at the University of Washington Bothell (UWB) hosts undergraduate research students for 10 weeks during the summer to participate in research projects, professional development activities, and an introduction to research-oriented careers in physics and astronomy. Participants will be matched with faculty mentors based on student interests and will join a cohort of students participating in weekly seminars, workshops, and an introduction to research resources and skills.
- Physics Education Research
- Computational Physics and Astrophysics
- Gravitational Wave Astronomy
- Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
- February 15: application deadline
- March 4: common acceptance deadline for all Physics REUs
- May 15: travel arrangements should be completed (if needed)
- June 12: arrive at program site
- June 13: first day of program
- August 19: UWB School of STEM Student Research Symposium presentations from all students
- August 20: depart program
Please note: All Physics REU sites will utilize a common deadline of March 4, 2022, for students to accept or decline first-round offers at domestic (non-international) sites. Sites may send offers to students at any time before this, but students will not be required to decide before this common date. Because of necessary organizational lead time, international REU sites may require earlier acceptance dates.
- You must be an undergraduate student in any academic year (freshman through senior) at the time of the summer program.
- You don't need to have a declared major, but you must have already completed the introductory physics sequence at your school.
- Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents in order to be supported by NSF funding. Other funding opportunities are also available for this program. Students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents may be eligible for other funding.
How to apply
Your application comprises the following:
- A completed online application.
- A statement of interest, up to 1 page in length.
- In the statement of interest, describe your academic background, your interests, and your tentative career plans. The statement should indicate why you feel REU participation would benefit you and your future plans; also, describe how you believe you can contribute to your mentor’s research topic. If applicable, you are welcome to describe prior undergraduate research experience, as well as any other information that you feel may be useful to our assessment. Finally, please indicate if you have a preferred mentor or topic area. (Note, however, that final mentor assignment occurs after selection of participants.)
- Your current college transcript(s).
- Unofficial transcripts from your school registrar are acceptable. If your school provides you with online access to your transcript or degree audit, a PDF printout is acceptable.
- Contact information for 2 professors or research mentors who can supply letters of reference.
Students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents should submit a current résumé or CV, a statement of interest, current college transcript(s), and contact information for two references to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All application materials must be submitted online.
Stipends, lodging, and travel expenses
- You are paid a program stipend of $6,000 to cover the cost of groceries, on- or off-campus dining, and other personal expenses.
- You are lodged in shared student housing at no direct expense to you. Your roommates will be participants in the Physics REU at UWB and other summer science programs.
- Up to $600 per student is available to assist with travel expenses to get to UWB at the beginning of the program and to return to your home or school after the end of the program.
Local and regional resources
For questions, please contact email@example.com.
2022 Research mentors and project descriptions
Project: Searching for Gravitational Waves with a Galactic Array of Pulsars
The NANOGrav Detection Working Group has developed detection software packages that can be installed and used on personal computers, allowing students to become immediately involved with the search for gravitational waves. These pipelines give students an introduction into modern Bayesian statistical analysis techniques and Python coding. NANOGrav is building noise portraits for individual pulsars by using Bayesian model selection and undergraduate students at UWB have been working through the various stages of that process for individual pulsars. With each new dataset, this type of model selection will be needed and is a tractable introduction for students interested in radio and gravitational wave astronomy. For exceptional students, there is also an opportunity to develop new noise models for these pulsars and connect their noise characteristics to various astrophysical phenomena, such as fluctuations in the interstellar medium and planets orbiting the pulsars.
Project: Partnering with communities to study indoor air quality
Our team of researchers has studied air quality in many environments and around the world. Typically, we haul fancy instruments to mountaintops or put them on aircraft (like in the picture). But in 2022, we are starting to examine air quality in the great indoors! Why would we do this? Well, we spend a lot of time indoors, and we are now finding that indoor air quality can actually be worse than outdoor air quality. We are also starting to use a suite of low-cost instruments. Why use low-cost sensors? Are we running out of money? No, but we want to find out what are the capabilities of these lower-cost sensors and how can we use them to help people improve their indoor air. We are particularly interested in facilitating the deployment of these low-cost sensors in disadvantaged communities that are near major sources, like freeway or heavy industry. Specifically, in summer of 2022, we have projects in collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Students in our team need a background in physics, chemistry, and/or statistics and will learn new skills in environmental science and working with community groups.
Project: Discovering and Studying Variability in Extremely High Velocity Outflows in Quasars using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Outflows are key to understanding the nature of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) at small and large scales. Gas outflowing in winds is common in AGN, and it might play a role in regulating the black hole growth and star formation in the host galaxies; this is known as the elusive “feedback”. In particular, the ones with extremely high speeds have not been thoroughly studied, so we do not know whether they are more variable, and they might pose the biggest challenges to the current state-of-the-art simulations. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has released the largest sample of quasar spectra, which currently include 526,356 quasars! In December 2019, SDSS released its 16th data release (DR16), increasing the number of available quasar spectra to use as our starting database. Students will work together in developing programming tools to mine this database and find quasars with extremely high velocity, focusing on those that show variability between repeated observations. This work will be useful for follow-up monitoring campaigns and to compare the properties of the found outflows to the results of theoretical simulations.
Project: Searching for Extreme Mass Ratio Inspirals with the LISA Data Challenges
The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission will detect low-frequency gravitational waves in the 2030s. Extreme Mass Ratio Inspiral (EMRI) systems produce gravitational waves during the long-lasting inspiral and plunge of stellar origin black holes into massive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The small black hole spends thousands of orbits in close vicinity of the massive black hole, allowing for ultra-precise measurements of the parameters of the binary system as the gravitational wave signal encodes information about the spacetime of the central massive object. EMRI waveforms are complex and the signals need to be coherently tracked for hundreds to thousands of cycles to produce a detection, making EMRI signals one of the most challenging data analysis problems in all of gravitational wave astronomy. To address these challenges this project will develop search techniques using the collection of harmonics for the system, filtering short segments of data against a comb of harmonics. The number of important harmonics depends on the source properties such as the eccentricity and black hole spin, and these properties can be exploited to identify EMRI signals in simulated data with the LISA Data Challenges.
Project: Narrow Spectral Artifact Identification for LIGO Continuous Wave Searches
Rapidly spinning neutron stars are expected to produce weak but continuous gravitational waves that will be detectable by LIGO searches in upcoming observing runs. However, searches for these signals are plagued by the presence of narrow spectral artifacts in the data—noise that originates on Earth, not in space. Students will develop and test data analysis tools to monitor and identify this type of noise, contributing to improved continuous wave data quality in the upcoming fourth LIGO observing run. A variety of projects are available based on student interest: refining automation of noise identification, tracking noise artifacts over time and across multiple streams of data, and investigating correlations between related noise artifacts. Students will write code in a collaborative research context, learn to use the LIGO Data Grid, and become familiar with data produced by the LIGO observatory sites. Students will also attend regular meetings of the LIGO continuous wave and detector characterization working groups to build their knowledge of gravitational wave search methods and astrophysical sources, and to understand how their work contributes to future prospects for the detection of continuous gravitational waves.
Project: Applications of Thin Films in Optics, Superconductivity, and Surface Science
Students will synthesize and characterize oxide thin films for optical applications and study the modes of propagation of guided waves in oxide thin films as a function of thickness and quality. Thin films of high-temperature superconducting oxides will be synthesized and electrical resistivity will be measured in a liquid nitrogen cryostat. An existing physical absorption system will be reconfigured and integrated to a closed-cycle Helium-4 cryocooler to determine the surface area of intermetallic thin film samples with large surface area to volume ratio and to study gas-solid surface interaction with potential applications in catalysis. Students will have the opportunity to learn about various circuits and sensors used in experimental research, and to design, simulate, and build some of the measurement circuitry. In addition, opportunities are available for students to automate measurement using LabView. Materials synthesis and physical property measurement apparatus at UWB include a thermal evaporator, physical adsorption system, Seebeck coefficient measurement apparatus, and prism coupler for material characterization. A Helium 4 cryocooler allows for measurement of gas adsorption isotherms at temperature below 77K. Students will participate in literature review, experiment planning, materials synthesis, physical property measurement, and designing and building the measurement apparatus.
Project: Research and Curriculum Development to Leverage University Student Conceptual Resources for Understanding Physics
Physics education research has a rich history of topic-specific research about student thinking, focused primarily on identifying common incorrect student ideas about physics. This NSF-funded project repurposes the tools of existing physics education research to identify students’ ideas that are sensible and potentially productive, with the aim of developing instructional materials that elicit and build on students’ valuable intuitions. A multi-stranded research program offers many opportunities for students, including opportunities to (1) identify common student resources for understanding kinematics, linear momentum, electric circuits, and thermal physics; (2) develop and systematically test research-based instructional materials that elicit and build on student resources for understanding physics; and (3) intentionally seek a racially and ethnically representative sample of university physics students in order to rectify the current over-representation of white, wealthy, mathematically-prepared students. REU participants will participate in this project by analyzing (1) students’ written responses to conceptual questions developed by the project and (2) students’ videotaped interactions as they engage with instructional activities developed by the project. Researchers will gain experience in documentation of patterns in physics students’ written responses and discourse analysis of physics students’ video-recorded interactions.
Project: Computational Modeling: Atmospheric Physics and Climate Change
The physical processes in the atmosphere that produce extreme events and that amplify the response to greenhouse gas forcing depend on basic physics concepts such as the movement of latent, sensible, and radiant energy between components of the Earth system. The role of processes in determining global- scale temperature and precipitation patterns is well-understood and underlie the projections of global climate change. There has been limited capacity, however, to model and study these processes in extreme events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, which depend on small spatial and temporal scales. As a result, the most important effects of climate change on human and natural systems are poorly understood. This project will be based on the analysis of recent high-resolution climate model simulations for the Pacific Northwest and Eastern China. These simulations are ongoing using high-performance computing facilities in the U.S. and China. Existing simulation results provide an exceptional resource for original student research using a range of computational and theoretical methods. Students may also participate in developing new simulations working with climate models in a high-performance computing environment. Research in this area at UWB is currently supported through a subaward from Tsinghua University and collaborations with researchers at UW Seattle.
Funded by National Science Foundation Award #2050928.