Summer Research at Carleton

Summer 2013 in the Physics and Astronomy Department

During the Summer of 2013 a limited number of research positions will be available. These positions will be paid the campus wide rate provisionally set at $4200 for ten weeks of work.


Students should contact the faculty member with whom they wish to work by February 15 and set up an appointment to discuss the research project and their qualifications for the job. Invitations to join a research group will be issued in early March. Student who receive invitations to join a research group must make a commitment before leaving campus for spring break.


Students offered a position will be required to do a spring term Special Project with their research advisor. Some Physics & Astronomy professors require more terms of academic research before a student is hired for summer work. These professors identify their summer research student early in the academic year.


2013 Summer Positions

Cindy Blaha is looking for two summer research assistants to analyze the evolutionary history of nearby Local Group galaxies M33, M31 and seven dwarf galaxies. The data consists of sets of broadband images as well as images taken through narrow interference filters centered on emission lines of ionized hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen.  These images will be used to perform a "galactic census" to identify the newly born stars (or HII regions), middle-aged stars (as planetary nebulae) and the newly deceased (in the form of supernova remnants).  This will help us piece together the galactic "life history" of these galaxies and compare star-formation rates and chemical abundance variations in different galactic environments.  Data analysis will involve use of the IRAF (Image Reduction and Analysis Facility), IDL (Interactive Data Language) and other image processing software on several operating systems. Summer work will also include acquiring and analyzing images taken with our local telescopes, CCD cameras and spectrograph and conducting open houses at Goodsell Observatory as well as being a student leader in our Young Astronomers Summer Experience (YASE) program for middle school students. Interest in astronomy is a prerequisite for these projects, but previous observing experience is not required.  Students interested in working on this project will be asked to do a special project in the spring to get ready for summer work. Please contact Cindy for further details if you are interested in applying.

Melissa Eblen-Zayas will be hiring two or three students to work on research projects focused on the growth and characterization of materials which show a variety of unusual magnetic and electronic properties. Among the materials that we research are rare earth intermetallic compounds and Eu-rich EuO. Eu-rich EuO provides a particularly interesting laboratory for studying questions about the nature of colossal magnetoresistance and phase inhomogeneity. Students will gain hands-on experience in low temperature experimental methods, high vacuum techniques, thin film and single crystal growth, and transport and magnetization measurements. In addition to work at Carleton, we will also occasionally travel to the University of Minnesota to use characterization facilities there.

First-years and sophomores are encouraged to apply. Being an experimentalist is, in part, about being creative, patient, detail-oriented, self-motivated, and able to solve real-life, messy (quite literally!) problems, and these characteristics are more important in the lab than the number of physics classes you have taken. Contact Melissa if you are interested in applying or want to learn more.

Jay Tasson expects to hire 2 summer research assistants to work on theoretical research in the area of Lorentz-symmetry testing.  As the underlying symmetry of special relativity, Lorentz symmetry underlies all of physics.  Thus, projects exist that might be suitable for students of a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, including first years and sophomores.  The most natural projects that could be tackled this summer involve quantum mechanics, gravitational physics, or classical mechanics, though an extensive background in these areas is not required.  Projects would likely involve paper and pencil calculations, but some computer work might also be involved.  A large triennial meeting on the subject will also occur over the summer, and travel to the meeting might also be possible.  Talk with Jay for more information. 

Bill Titus is looking to hire a research assistant to work on the research project Gravitational Field from a Polyhedral.  As part of an analysis project for gravity inversion in 3D, he would like to find someone willing to write Mathematica and C programs that will calculate and visualize the gravitational field due to a constant density polyhedral.  The starting point would be an existing 2D version of the program for polygons.  This project requires digging through the scientific literature to see what has already been done, programming skills in Mathematica, Physics 229/230, and good 3D visualization abilities.  Programming experience in C would be nice, but is not necessary.

Joel Weisberg wishes to  hire one student for summer 2013 pulsar research to study general relativity, the interstellar medium, and pulsars’ emission processes: Carleton students, colleagues elsewhere, and Joel are observing pulsars at Green Bank, WV, Arecibo, PR, and Parkes, Australia for a variety of projects. They are studying the properties of pulsars in an effort to understand the underlying emission mechanism; measuring the density, turbulence, and magnetization of the interstellar medium by watching its effects on pulsar signals; and studying Einstein's General Theory of Relativity by carefully observing the orbit and pulseshape of a binary pulsar. 

We would start winter and spring term by reading and discussing articles on these topics, and learning computer programming, so that we can hit the ground running in the summer.  The projects involve the use of unix, fortran, IDL, and C programs to plan the observations and to analyze the data we collect on these objects; and our own minds to think creatively  about the results.  We will spend our final summer month at the Australia Telescope National Facility near Sydney, Australia. Astrophysics I or II is a suggested prerequisite but we can be flexible; most important is a sincere interest in astrophysics.

Matt Wiebold is looking for one summer research assistant to use computers to simulate plasmas used in spacecraft propulsion. Thrusters that use charged particles can accelerate ions to several tens of thousands of miles per hour, which can provide small amounts of thrust very efficiently. I have a few computational projects that are all concerned with modeling a special phenomenon that could be used to drastically increase the efficiency and lifetime of plasma-based thrusters. This work will involve running existing computational codes and analyzing the results or possibly developing and updating similar codes. Experience with coding (Python, MATLAB, C++) and linux would be helpful but is not necessary. 


  • The Carleton Summer Science Fellowship is offered in all the Carleton science departments. The goal of the Summer Science Fellowship is to broaden participation of historically underrepresented groups (including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and disabilities) in the sciences.  The deadline for application to the Summer Science Fellowship is January 11, 2013.  More information and the application can be found on the SSF webpage.
  • Other science departments at Carleton also hire undergraduate researchers for the summer.  The hiring of 40-50 summer student-faculty research positions in the sciences is carried out at the level of the department or individual faculty member. The college-wide research stipend for students who work ten weeks full time in summer 2013 is provisionally set at $4,200. Visit the CISMI webpage for information on hiring in each department at Carleton.