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Research Opportunities

There are ten research areas currently offered as part of the REU program: 

  1. Computational Astrophysics
  2. Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
  3. Accelerator physics
  4. Nuclear Experiment
  5. High Energy Physics- Collider
  6. Observational Astrophysics and Cosmology
  7. Experimental Atomic and Molecular Optics (AMO)
  8. Theoretical AMO/Condensed Matter
  9. Theoretical Cosmology
  10. Computational Condensed Matter
  11.  Laser Teaching Center 



1. Computational astrophysics imageComputational Astrophysics (mentors: Alan Calder / Michael Zingale): Our computational astrophysics group is active in simulations of stellar phenomena (including various models of supernovae, X-ray bursts, novae) and related topics (exoplanet structure). We develop a suite of open source simulation codes that solve the equations of hydrodynamics on adaptive structured meshes, and are written to perform on modern supercomputers. For an REU student, we would offer a choice of project, involving:

  • Performing simulations of a new science problem (likely 2-d, exploratory calculations)
  • Working on visualization of simulation data
  • Adding to and testing our microphysics (nuclear reaction networks, equations of state, etc.)

We would need a student who already has familiarity with programming (we use C++, Fortran, and python primarily). Working in our group, we will train the student on modern software engineering techniques, including version control with git, testing, and debugging.



2. Experimental Condensed Matter Physics (mentors: Matthew Dawber/Xu Du/Qiang Li/Mengkun Liu): There are four highly active experimental condensed matter groups with labs on-site in the physics building at Stony Brook. The groups operate in a highly collaborative fashion with students working in one group having access to the equipment in the labs of the other groups. There are also common items of equipment and these are being expanded and consolidated in to a new jointly space over the next year. The focuses of the four groups are

  • Deposition and characterization of complex oxide thin films and multilayers (Dawber)
  • Electrical transport and device physics with a focus on 2D materials (Du)
  • Quantum materials in energy, and quantum information science and technology (Li) 
  • Ultra-fast and near field IR spectroscopy (Liu).

The groups are also extensive users of nearby user facilities at BNL, in particular beamlines at NSLS-II and the nanofabrication facilities at the CFN which complement our in-house facilities. REU students working in this area would be doing very hands-on projects mastering a number of experimental apparatus. The groups have hosted many undergraduate researchers to date and also typically host an average of 3 high school students each summer through the Simons Summer Research Program. These groups could support from one to two students in each summer of the program.



3. Accelerator physics (mentor: Navid Vafaei-Najafabadi): Accelerator physics is a growing area of research with many exciting opportunities for undergraduate students in both conventional accelerator physics as well as advanced accelerator technology. The connection of the Stony Brook faculty to the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to engage in research in collaboration with a world class accelerator facility. This connection is further reinforced by Center for Accelerator Science and Education (CASE), which seeks to train the next generation of accelerator scientists and engineers. This organization is supported by the resources and active participation of staff from both BNL and Stony Brook University. The students will be able to contribute to the experiments in the field of plasma-based particle accelerators, where accelerating forces a thousand times greater than the conventional particle accelerators can be generated. One such experiment currently under way uses the laser and electron-beam facilities at the Accelerator Test Facility at BNL to experimentally study the properties of plasma waves generated by lasers. This project will give the students hands on training on a number of areas, including particle acceleration, high power laser physics, laser and particle beam diagnostics, and scientific data analysis. Example of previous projects by undergraduate students include writing data acquisition and analysis software, studying and designing plasma and electron beam diagnostics, and testing the experimental apparatus.

nuclear physics experiments 

4. Nuclear Experiment (mentors: Jan Bernauer, Klaus Dehmelt, Abhay Deshpande , Axel Drees, Tom Hemmick, Joanna Kiryluk): 

Our Nuclear Physics program is ranked 3rd in the United States, and our experimental group offers a number of exciting projects for undergraduates.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion and QCD Spin group (PI’s Profs Deshpande, Drees, Hemmick) along with Research Associate Professor Dehmelt have established a long history of mentoring REU students in the last period of NSF support and typically took three to fice such students each summer. The group is active at two national labs: BNL and Je↵erson Lab with ample projects
for REU students to get involved in.
The current projects involve four basic thrusts:

  • sPHENIX is an upgrade to the PHENIX experiment (for which SBU held a leading role). SBU is in charge of the construction of the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) for sPHENIX. Opportunities range from physics simulation, to mechanical design, to electronic design, to test beam experiments, and finally construction and commissioning of the detector itself. Prof. Bernauer is also involved in sPHENIX, in the context of DAQ/Streaming Readout.
  • The MOLLER experiment at Je↵erson Lab hopes to make the most precise measurement of electron-electron scattering to challenge the Standard Model and look for physics beyond it. The experiment will start 2026. Stony Brook is responsible for building 40% of the forward tracking (GEM) detectors for MOLLER starting Fall of 2022.
  • SoLID is a newly proposed experiment at Jefferson Lab that will investigate deep inelastic scattering (DIS) and parity-violating DIS using the recent upgrade of CEBAF to 12 GeV. SBU is doing R&D and will perform construction of the high reflectivity mirrors for the SoLID cherenkov detector. This work involves high vacuum work.
  • The Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) is listed in the nuclear physics long range plan as the top priority for new construction. SBU has been a leader in the R&D program developing new detector technologies for EIC. This work has included unique large area gas-based Cherenkov detectors, standard TPC’s, and TPC specializing in particle ID through the development of “cluster counting techniques”. The research involves both bench experiments as beam experiments to build and prove new technologies. Profs Bernauer and Kiryluk also are involved in this in addition to the RHIC/Jlab group.

The research involves both bench experiments as beam experiments to build and prove new technologies. The effort at JLab focuses on parity violation experiments and precision electron beam polarimetry needed for the success of those experiments. The list of experiments is long, but the principle ones include PREX/CREX, MOLLER and SOLID. All of these are planned in the next 2-7 years using the 12 GeV upgraded Continuous Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). REU projects associated with these experiments would involve working on polarimetry, analysis of data in years 2019-onwards, and simulations of detector responses for those being designed at this time.

ice cubed photo

Joanna Kiryluk is part of the IceCube experiment at the South Pole which studies the Universe by observing high-energy neutrinos. REU students will have the opportunity to participate in this cutting-edge science in the emerging field of neutrino particle astrophysics. They will contribute to analysis of existing and simulated data to reconstruct and identify the flavor of high-energy tau and electron neutrinos with deep learning (neural network) methods and techniques. Kiryluk will supervise one to two students annually.

Jan Bernauer is a leader in measurements of the proton radius using electron and muon beams. He is currently involved heavily in the MUSE muon-proton scattering experiment at
PSI, in TPEX, a two-photon-exchange measurement at DESY, and DarkLight, a search for
a dark-sector force carrier with a mass around 20 MeV at TRIUMF, Canada. Bernauer will
routinely take at least one if not two students in his group from the REU program.




5. High Energy Physics - Collider (Mentors: John Hobbs, Giacinto Piacquadio, Dmitri Tsybychev): 

The Stony Brook ATLAS group would like to propose 2 or 3 projects for undergraduate research under the supervision of Prof. J. Hobbs, Assist. Prof. G. Piacquadio and Assoc. Prof. D. Tsybychev. The group is co-leading several physics measurements based on the analysis of the proton proton collision data recorded with the ATLAS Experiment and delivered by the LHC accelerator at CERN in Geneva. These include the measurement of Higgs decays to b-quarks , the search for the rare Higgs decays to muons and the search for Higgs → aa → bbμμ, where a is a hypothesized new intermediate pseudo-scalar. The undergraduate research projects will be focused on one of these analyses. LHC Run 2 ended in 2018, and Run 3 is now beginning.Projects would either be associated with finalizing Run 2 analyses or with studies of early Run 3 data. The group is also involved in HL-LHC upgrade activities, and should a summer student show interest in this, upgrade-related projects could be undertaken.

The extremely good LHC machine performance, both in terms of instantaneous luminosity and total data set size, comes at a price. The analysis of the data has to cope with larger data collecting rates, making the online signal selection challenging, with high contamination
from pile-up, i.e. additional unwanted soft interactions that are the irreducible by-product of the higher rates. Experimental progress therefore requires not only the analysis of the additional data, but also the design of smarter analyses. Understanding the physics of LHC collisions, how these are recorded with the ATLAS detector and how to deal with these challenges constitutes an intellectually stimulating environment for a student, at the same time it can be overwhelming if a student is not provided the right tools to filter out the relevant information. Therefore, for each of the students, one specific challenge will be isolated, for example the re-optimization of specific aspects of the analysis selection, which is typically connected to better understanding the features of the signal as opposed to the backgrounds, or a selective reduction of the contamination from pile-up, or a project to tackle a specific systematic uncertainty such as the b-jet calibration. This is especially true as the new data set is accumulated with the upgraded detector. The data set typically required for any of these analysis will be processed in such a way to present the student with data (real data and the corresponding simulated processes) in a format that can typically be analyzed on a single computer, and can be processed within a reasonable time with limited overhead involved.

In all phases the student will be followed closely by both an experienced post-doc in the group and one faculty member, that will be identified among the faculty members of the group as responsible for a specific project. To maximize the probability of success, the problem to tackle will be “outsourced” from the original (and more complex) analysis, with the idea that, after successful completion, the findings will be integrated back into the main ATLAS analysis code. The project will end with a presentation to the ATLAS Stony Brook group’s weekly meeting and with a presentation to the relevant ATLAS working group meeting.

6. Observational Astrophysics and Cosmology (mentors: Simon Birrer):Systematic comparison between lens modelling software programs: Time-delay prediction for WGD 2038−4008

The group of Prof. Birrer seeks to answer fundamental questions in physics with astrophysical and cosmological observations. The group’s expertise is in the interface between the exquisite data sets available on one side and the fundamental theory predictions on the other side. The group is actively developing advanced computational and statistical tools in an open-source and reproducible manner. Student projects can be formed around the analysis around Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope imaging data of strong gravitational lenses, or with the testing, documenting and implementation of features in open-source software. In addition, the group prepares for the next generation ground and space based missions (Vera C. Rubin Telescope, Roman Space Telescope) and projects can be formed around toy models in preparation of the data to come. Students will learn to work with stronomical data products, developing an intuition into statistical analyses, and in collaborative software developments with pull requests, code review, and continuous integration testing.

AMO research  

7. Experimental Atomic and Molecular Optics (Mentors: Tom Allison, Eden Figueroa, Harold
Metcalf, Dominik Schneble, Tom Weinacht):

 Experimental AMO research in our department is carried on in five laboratories. It spans an enormously wide range, covering almost all of the areas of current interest in the field. All AMO faculty have welcomed undergraduates in our labs, and an REU grant to our department would expand the possibilities to a larger and wider range of students.

  • In the time resolved spectroscopy lab under the guidance of Tom Weinacht, there are opportunities for students to design and test new optical systems for imaging, and manipulating the spatial and temporal properties of femtosecond time scale laser pulses. They could also work on developing software and hardware for data acquisition, as well as approaches for the interpretation of experimental measurements.
  • The ultracold-atom lab under the guidance of Dominik Schneble produces gaseous atomic samples in the nanokelvin regime and studies their exotic quantum-mechanical behavior using advanced optical techniques. REU students would have the opportunity to learn about diode lasers and optics, ultrahigh vacuum, as well as data acquisition and analysis. They would be able to contribute through self-contained projects relating to laser stabilization, acousto-optics, optical atom trapping and imaging, and software and electronics development.
  • Using polychromatic light to study ultra-strong optical forces on neutral He atoms is one topic of study in Harold Metcalf’s lab. One of the exploited transitions occurs in the telecom wavelength region so there is a wide range of fiber-optic instrumentation whose implementation for atomic physics is an extremely beneficial experience for students. There are Ti:Sapph lasers pumped by vanadates, fiber amplifiers, and of course, diode lasers frequency locked to atomic transitions and phase-locked to one another. Along with the physics of laser cooling and coherent exchange of momentum between atoms and light, the technological experiences has shown to be indeed important for students’ careers.
  • The quantum information lab of Eden Figueroa offers summer projects for REU students to work hands-on in the laboratory. The projects are aimed at teaching students valuable experimental methods that are common in modern day quantum optics and quantum information research. Among possible projects are the construction and optimization of optical resonators, design of temperature-stabilized systems for nonlinear crystals, and the setting of an external cavity diode laser tuned to atomic transitions.
  • Frequency comb lasers, recognized with the 2005 Nobel prize in physics, have revolutionized atomic clocks and precision measurement. However, their enormous potential for ultrafast time-resolved measurements has been largely unexplored. The Allison lab develops frequency comb light sources across the electromagnetic spectrum to follow the motions of electrons, holes, and nuclei in molecular and condensed matter systems on ultrafast time scales. Developing new technologies and physics ideas go hand in hand with gaining insight into ultrafast dynamics.


8. Theoretical AMO/Condensed Matter (mentor: Tzu-Chieh Wei, Jesus Perez Rıos ):

The research interests in the group of Tzu-Chieh Wei include theoretical quantum information, condensed-matter physics, and quantum optics. He has extensive experience in supervising students at various stages for research, from high-school students to graduate students. For REU students, he has projects appropriate for junior and senior undergraduate students, briefly described below:

  1. Quantum information regards characterization of information processing under the laws of quantum mechanics, and the most notable potential applications include quantum computation and quantum communication. One important notion is entanglement. An REU project will expose students to this characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, how to characterize and quantify entanglement, and how entanglement can be used in various scenarios.
  2. Condensed-matter physics: REU students will learn essential theoretical and numerical tools to examine simple and yet nontrivial models. The numerical methods will include either Monte Carlo simulations or tensor-network techniques in solving many-body systems, either classical or quantum and will be applied to study phases of matter and their transitions.
  3. REU students interested in quantum optics will learn to characterize the quantum nature of light and how light interact with atoms. They will also interact with experimental groups and help to apply theoretical quantum optical tools to study experimental findings.

The research interest of the group of Jesus Perez Rıos revolves around the fundamentals of atomic and molecular interactions at the borderline of other disciplines of physics. Research topics include:

  • Cold and ultracold chemistry: Atomic and molecular processes at temperatures close to absolute zero, where quantum mechanics dictates the reaction dynamics and is controlled via external fields.

  • Few-body physics: Is the study of physical systems involving few degrees of freedom, such as chemical reactions. We focus on studying three-body recombination or ternary association, i.e., the formation of a molecule out of three free atoms, relevant to atmospheric physics (ozone formation), plasma physics (ion-atom-atom processes), and chemical physics (van der Waals molecule formation).

  • Physics beyond the Standard Model: In this line of research, thanks to collaborative efforts with our colleagues from high-energy physics, we try to find suitable atomic and molecular systems for searching for dark matter and new particles and interactions.

  • Data-driven chemistry: In this line of research, we use machine learning techniques to study the properties of diatomic molecules, propose novel reaction mechanisms, or improve a given quantum mechanical treatment for electronic structure methods.

    REU students participating in this research will be able to explore characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, how to characterize and quantify entanglement, how entanglement can be used in various scenarios, gain experience in working with Monte Carlo simulations or

    tensor-network techniques, and will learn how to characterize the quantum nature of light and light’s interaction with atoms. They will also interact with experimental groups and help to apply theoretical quantum optical tools to study experimental findings, which will help students find their professional paths.


cosmology9. Theoretical Cosmology (mentor: Vivian Miranda): The cosmology group at Stony Brook is active in various research topics with connections to many other areas of physics, from particles and fields to astronomy. Cosmology research at Stony Brook spans the range of Mathematica-based investigation to projects using high-performance computing when modeling the Cosmic Microwave Background and optical lensing, all in close connection to the science of the Dark Energy Survey and Rubin Observatories. Advanced undergraduate students would have the opportunity to get involved in research at either end of the spectrum, depending on their background and interest. An REU student in this group would be offered a choice of a project involving: measuring new properties of large-scale structure, extending and testing a simple analytic model for new physics, forecasting early and late-time dark energy models for 2020's observatories. A student in this group would learn programming skills and good coding practices and participate fully in the cosmology group's regular journal club and weekly meetings.




10. Computational Condensed Mattercomp condense matter(mentors: Cyrus Dreyer, Marivi Fernandez Serra, Phil Allen): 

Students interested in condensed matter physics and computation will have a wide
choice of projects to choose from. The groups of Fernandez-Serra, Dreyer and Allen do
research on developing and applying electronic structure methods to study the physics of
materials and condensed systems with intriguing and unexplained physical properties. These groups are interested in understanding the coupling of electronic and atomic degrees of freedom and how their collective behavior gives rise to functional physical properties in different materials and combinations of materials in heterostructure and their interfaces. The groups are independent from an academic viewpoint, but students at the groups interact are part of a single large group. Group meetings are common and often the faculty will co-supervise each others students. This o↵ers a very favorable and friendly environment for undergrad students interested on doing research in their area. Below is a brief description of several current research projects that will be open for the students to participate in.

          • Study of the aqueous interface at perovskite oxide materials with focus on their electrocatalytical properties. There are many open questions ready to be addressed, such as how the electronic band structure of the bulk material affects the interaction of water at

            its interfaces. As part of this project we also envision collaboration with experimentalists in the condensed matter physics group (Prof. Dawber).

          • Study of surface properties of topological materials and their use as catalysts, including photocatalytical water splitting. In particular, building on our experience with studying photocatalytic water splitting in oxide perovskites, we will study how similar reactions

            can be catalyzed by protected surface states on oxide topological insulators surfaces.

          • Machine learning approaches to improve the theoretical approximations behind the numerical approaches in electronic structure methods. Students will study how to improve the exchange and correlation potential in density functional theory using machine learning. The proposed project will look at creating new solid-state data bases of accurate results using many body techniques like Greens function methods.

          • Many-body methods for quantum defects: The student will explore models of point defects in materials inspired by or (parametrized with) first-principles calculations. The focus will be on defects that may be useful for quantum applications in quantum computing, quantum communication, and/or quantum metrology.


11. Laser Teaching Center:  (coordinating mentor: Eric Jones (Ph.D) )

The Laser Teaching Center (LTC) housed in a dedicated 1100 square-foot suite, has been a permanent facility within our Department, since its founding in 1995. Over the years we have mentored and guided many dozens of students, roughly equal number of men and women, from a widely diverse range of ethnicity and backgrounds. Students are guided by our carefully chosen mentors for our summer program, but there are ongoing projects and tutorials throughout the academic year.  It provides hands-on, individual educational projects in optical physics and technology for students at all levels, even our graduate students. Our high school alumni are admitted to the highest ranking colleges in the country, and our undergraduate alumni go to the very best graduate schools. Their career trajectories are astounding: the LTC provides a launching pad for students into graduate school, industrial and/or government labs, internships, and other career opportunities.

During the summer of 2021, undergraduate projects included measuring the CHSH inequality with polarization-entangled photons and a remote study on beam propagation from a laser diode. Our student who worked on entanglement presented his work at the Division of Laser Science (DLS) Symposium on Undergraduate Research, along with two high school students who worked on a coherent backscattering experiment and an all-optical invisibility scheme. In the summer of 2022, the undergraduate projects included the characterization of Gaussian beams, design of optical tweezers, a study of open-cavity Fabry-Perot interferometers, an investigation into the classic radiometer, and coupling Laguerre-Gaussian beams into a hollow capillary. Our student working on the project with Laguerre-Gaussian beams was invited to present her work at the DLS Symposium on Undergraduate Research in October. Two other
Stony Brook REU students worked on projects in AMO labs that shared some resources with the LTC. From this experience, we know that some REU projects can be performed entirely within the LTC, while for others the Center can play a role in providing resources to students doing projects in either AMO or Accelerator Physics.