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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 2019 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, Physics
Mentor:  Charles Steinhardt, Prof., Niels Bohr Institute/Univ. of Copenhagen, (PMA),, Phone: +45 27514447
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  NOTE: The following project will be conducted at the Niels Bohr Institute at the 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 6-10 students (some from Caltech and some from elsewhere) will come to Copenhagen during our third 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. Students will also be eligible to apply separately for a NSF REU covering the same dates and same research, but which would come with a slightly higher salary.

Note that this work will take place in Copenhagen, so you will be traveling to and living in a foreign country for your research over the summer. Denmark is a very friendly country and it is possible to do everything both inside and outside of work by speaking English. However, it is still a foreign country, and successful students will need to be able to live independently in an environment without some of the support systems and accommodations available in Pasadena.
Description:  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. Mentors available also include Gabriel Brammer, Pascal Oesch, Daniel Ceverino, and others at the Cosmic Dawn Center. Possible projects might include:

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 recently prompted us to 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. The success of our initial exploration had led us to try and develop this model further, which will involve both theory work modeling gas dynamics and comparison with observations.

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 problem 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) We recently found that novel machine learning techniques allowed us to select specific classes of rare galaxies far more efficiently than was previously possible. We would now like to refine these methods to consider where else they might be applicable, either in galaxy evolution or other areas of astronomy such as the characteristics of gamma-ray bursters, rare high-energy events which are still not fully understood. This project would be well suited for a computer science student, as the creative aspects are almost entirely computer science rather than astronomy.
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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