Recent Undergraduate Research News

Jeff Leiberton in front of blackboard

Leiberton Named 2023 Goldwater Scholar

Thursday, April 20, 2023
Third-year student Jeff Leiberton has been named a Goldwater Scholar, the premier undergraduate scholarship for students pursuing careers in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. He is the UI's 63rd Goldwater Scholar and 15th from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Emerson and Melissa Peters at FURF22

Undergrads Present Posters at Research Festival

Thursday, November 3, 2022
Physics and Astronomy students presented 11 posters at the Fall Undergraduate Research Festival (FURF) Nov. 2 at the University Capitol Centre. The Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates hosts FURF, held in celebration and recognition of undergraduate researchers' contributions to research, scholarly, and creative work at the University of Iowa.

UI Physics and Astronomy Students Awarded ISGC Research Scholarships

Thursday, August 4, 2022
The NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) has selected six University of Iowa Physics and Astronomy students as undergraduate research fellows. They will be awarded $5,000 scholarships to support research projects in coordination with a faculty mentor.
CanSAT 2022 build

CanSat Annual Competition Open to Students

Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Students can get a head start on an aerospace career by entering the 2023 CanSat Competition. Not just a paper exercise, CanSat is an annual competition in which college and university teams from around the world participate in a scored and judged design-build-launch project to see who can best meet assigned mission requirements.
Jacob Andrews

Students Present Posters at Summer Undergraduate Research Conference

Friday, July 29, 2022
Several UI Physics and Astronomy students presented posters at the 15th Annual Summer Undergraduate Research Conference on July 27 at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge.

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 2021-22

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