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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2018 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Multiple Projects in Galaxy Evolution
Disciplines:  Astronomy, Computer Science
Mentor:  Charles Steinhardt, Professor, (PMA),, Phone: +45 27514447; (609) 672-9866 while in US
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  NOTE: This project is being offered by a Caltech alumnus and will be conducted at Niels Bohr Institute/University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

This is one of several projects available at the Niels Bohr Institute this summer, and we expect that in total 3-5 Caltech students will come to Copenhagen during our second year running a summer program. Since travel within Europe is inexpensive, this will be an 11 or 12 week program, so that students can take a 1-2 week vacation to see other parts of Europe. Other projects in astronomy with different mentors will also be available. We hope to finalize who will be coming by mid-January, so that there will be plenty of time to both write a SURF proposal and take care of any necessary visa/housing.

A range of projects related to early-Universe galaxy formation and evolution are available, ranging from observational to computational depending upon your background and interest. Possible projects might include:

Many different ways of observing galaxies at a variety of stages in their evolution reach the same surprising conclusion: evolving galaxies all look remarkably similar. For example, almost all star-forming galaxies lie on a tight relation between redshift, the existing stellar mass, and their new star-formation rate. Thus, we can predict the star-formation rate quite well from time and mass alone, without having to know anything about the age of the galaxy, its environment, its morphology, or any of the other things that might seem like they should be important. Two projects that could arise from research in this area might be:
Description:  1) We were recently awarded a large Hubble Space Telescope program, BUFFALO, which uses massive galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses to find faint, distant galaxies. As part of this effort, we have been developing novel machine learning methods for analyzing the resulting catalogs, which generates several problems suitable for students interested in either computer science or astronomical research.

2) Many different ways of observing galaxies at a variety of stages in their evolution reach the same surprising conclusion: evolving galaxies all look remarkably similar. This similarity should prompt us to try and build a model in which galaxies share a common evolutionary history, and the various stages that we observe (star formation, quasar accretion, eventual turnoff, etc.) are all included. In this case, the problem suffers from a wealth of data -- there is so much information out there about so many different states of galaxy evolution that it's difficult to make sense of it all. Thus, the initial stages of this investigation will likely involve taking some time to become familiar with the enormous literature on what we've learned in the past few decades about how galaxies grow. As a result, this project would be very well suited for a student interested in astronomy or astrophysics, but a strong background in astronomy is not required as you will pick this up along the way.

3) Star-forming galaxies make stars at a variety of masses, in a distribution called the stellar initial mass function (IMF). Our group recently wrote a paper arguing that the first galaxies should form stars at a higher temperature, and therefore with a different IMF. The next step is to develop a feedback model predicting the implications of this change, and in particular trying to understand whether star-forming galaxies should reach an equilibrium answer. This project would be a good match for a student interested in theory, either in astronomy or physics.
Student Requirements:  Variable, depending upon the project, but some computational background is strongly recommended. Some projects will be suitable for freshmen, and others will require a more formal astronomy, physics, or computer science background.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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