Recent Undergraduate Research News

Awards Colloquium graphic

2022 Awards Colloquium Held April 26

Tuesday, April 26, 2022
The Department of Physics and Astronomy honored several students, faculty, and staff for their achievements on April 26 at the 2022 Awards Colloquium in 301 VAN.
Dare to Discover doucette weiler

Undergrad Students Featured in 2022 Dare to Discover Campaign

Thursday, January 20, 2022
Two Physics and Astronomy students are featured in the 2022 University of Iowa Dare to Discover Campaign. Joshua Doucette and Laura Weiler are among 82 UI undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers and scholars in the Dare to Discover campaign, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Salvatore Quaid

Quaid Receives John and Elsie Mae Ferentz Research Fund Award

Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Physics and Astronomy student Salvatore Quaid been selected to receive a $1,000 award from the John and Elsie Mae Ferentz Research Fund for the fall 2021 semester.
Henry Hammer and Nachtman

Students Present Posters at Fall Undergraduate Research Festival

Monday, November 15, 2021
Nine Physics and Astronomy students presented posters at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival (FURF) Nov. 10 at the University Capitol Centre. Zachary Vig and Hank Hammer won $100 prizes in the Department poster contest.
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From small towns to a big NASA gig

Friday, November 5, 2021
Recent University of Iowa graduates Andrew Carton and Ryan Helland grew up in small communities in Iowa never dreaming they’d be involved in space research. But through their academic experiences at Iowa, they both secured jobs with a landmark NASA mission.

Recent Undergraduate Research Projects

Laura Weiler
Gaussian Process Regression for Integrating the Transition Structure Factor Curve
Research mentors: Prof. James Shepherd (Chemistry), Tina Mihm (Chemistry)

The transition structure factor is a component of electron correlation energy which encodes useful information about the convergence behavior of a system. We explore the use of Gaussian Process Regression for completing the transition structure factor curve to attain the thermodynamic limit correlation energy at the cost of relatively small system sizes.

Emily Silich
A Search for Dark Matter with HaloSat
Research Mentors: Prof. Philip Kaaret, Keith Jahoda (NASA/GSFC code 662), Lorella Angelini (NASA/GSFC code 661)

An X-ray emission line near 3.5 keV observed in dark matter dominated objects (galaxy clusters, the Milky Way galaxy) has been interpreted as a possible secondary product of a decaying dark matter particle, though observations of the line have been controversial. If this interpretation of the 3.5 keV line is correct, there should exist a signal from the Milky Way that is correlated to models of the Milky Way galaxy’s dark matter distribution. HaloSat is an all-sky survey that, since October 2018, has been observing in the soft X-ray band from 0.4 – 7 keV. With its large field of view and significant coverage of the X-ray sky, HaloSat provides an opportunity to search for the 3.5 keV line originating from the Milky Way, which is the focus of my summer work.

Samantha Watkins
Developing Tools for Examining Astronomical Outliers Identified with Machine Learning
Van Allen Summer Research Grant
Research Mentor: Prof. Casey DeRoo

Outliers within an astronomical catalog hold the potential to offer new insights into astrophysical phenomena. Watkins outlined her contributions to machine learning to identify outliers in the Chandra Source Catalog v2.0. I will explain a script I developed in Python to query the SIMBAD astronomical database for objects near our outlier coordinates. I will also talk about the issue and implications of missing data in our dataset. A follow-up study of the bias introduced by means of handling missing data has implications for future astronomical machine learning surveys.

Steve Tammes and Tyler Roth
Soft x-ray detection for small satellites with a commercial CMOS sensor
Research Mentors: Prof. Phil Kaaret, Prof. Casey DeRoo

Advancements in small satellite technology have enabled low cost x-ray astrophysics missions to be carried out on CubeSats. This has led to a demand for x-ray imaging instruments suitable to these mission budgets. We present results from our characterizations of a commercial CMOS sensor using the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory.

Genna Crom
High-Resolution NH3 Gas Temperatures in the Galactic Center Cloud
Research Mentors: Dr. Cornelia Lang, Dr. Natalie Butterfield (Green Bank Observatory)

We present high resolution (~3'', 0.1 pc) rotational and kinetic gas temperature measurements of the Galactic center cloud  M0.10-0.08. The M0.10-0.08 cloud is a compact (~100'', 3 pc) cloud located ~25 pc in projection of the supermassive black-hole SrgA*. We derive gas temperatures throughout the cloud using multiple metastable transitions of NH3 taken with the Very Large Array (VLA). We used two methods to calculate the gas temperatures: a temperature map and a Boltzmann plot distribution. We compare our high-resolution temperature values with other surveys.

Past Undergraduate Research Projects

Undergraduate Research Projects 2020-21
Undergraduate Research Projects 2019-20
Undergraduate Research Projects 2018-19
Undergraduate Research Projects 2017-18
Undergraduate Research Projects 2016-17