Astronomy project ideas
Fall term is a good time to engage in research projects, and it’s not too early to start them sophomore year. We highly recommend that you do one, as do most students who have tried them. If you take one, you will learn something about actually doing Physics and Astronomy research, which will help guide you in decisions about “life after Carleton.” To lure you, we list numerous suitable projects below. The descriptions here are very brief; talk to us to us to explore more fully those projects that interest you and to be sure that we have not already promised a particular project to someone else.
Please note that these are offered only on S/Cr/NC basis since it is very difficult to assign grades to independent and cooperative projects. Special projects are for 2 to 3 credits and you will need to complete a special project form that will get deposited with the registrar. Independent studies can be 1 to 6 credits, and again you need to complete a special form. You can pick up a copy from Trenne Fields, Olin 331 or get one online under the Physics and Astronomy Department web page > Student Resources >Forms.
My research interests are in complex systems and complex dynamics, focused in nonlinear laser dynamics. Examples of complex systems include the human brain, cellular networks, the climate, social networks, laser dynamics, among many others. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of semiconductor lasers, as they are simple devices with which we can obtain a broad range of dynamics, from chaos to regular patterns. Also, these devices can help us design optical neurons, i. e., photonic systems that mimic biological neurons’ behavior. This last would help us understand how neurons compute information, and would path the way for a neuro-inspired optical computational system.
There are different possibilities of research, some of them imply simulating models, others aim to apply novel and powerful statistical analysis tools to experimental and numerical data previously studied. In your research you will begin deepening your knowledge on lasers and complex systems. Then you will focus, either on a more numerical simulations path, or on statistical data analysis from different complex systems.
Requirements: eager to learn and discover. Previous software programming knowledge is welcome but not required.
I have several ongoing research projects for students interested in optics. Please contact me if you are interested in any of these projects. No prior coursework or research experience is required, only an eagerness to learn and delve into hands-on experimental work. I am currently looking for students to start in fall or winter term.
Holographic photopolymers and optofluidic devices: This project has several sub-projects occurring in parallel. Many of the current projects involve measuring and controlling the properties of my holographic photopolymer. Additional projects involve building refractometers and exploring other devices that involve optics and fluids that we might be able to miniaturize using my polymer. The possibility for short-term and long-term projects exists.
Lab development: I am interested in developing optics labs for use in upper-division optics courses. This project is ideal for a student who wants a short-term, hands-on project in optics (1-2 terms), but is not ready to commit to working into the summer.
I have several projects to share with students who are interested in astronomical research and observation. Please come and talk to me if you are interested in working on these projects.
Evolutionary History of Galaxies: Interested in finding out how stars and gas interact to affect the life of a galaxy? Massive stars and the gas they ionize play an integral role in shaping the evolutionary history of a galaxy. Recently we’ve been working identifying the ionized hydrogen regions in spiral galaxies M31 and M33, spiral neighbors of our own Milky Way. Optical observations were acquired for three large fields in M33 and ten fields in M31. Each field has a set of B, V and R (blue, green and red) broadband images as well as three images taken through narrow interference filters centered on specific emission lines of ionized hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen. Using all these images together, we are trying to compare the galactic “life history” of M31 and M33. Data analysis will involve use of the Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF) and other image processing software on several operating systems.
Carleton's CCD Project: I am also involved with developing educational materials for our set of eight CCD (Charge Coupled Device) cameras as well as the new spectrometer and video cameras. This equipment is used on our 8" and 16" telescopes and allows us to record digital observations of astronomical objects and analyze them with a wide variety of software packages for image processing. We will continue to experiment with our CCD cameras, spectrometer and computers to develop observational labs and independent research projects ranging from lunar imaging and compositional analysis to determining the age of stellar clusters.