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Amgen Scholars: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty for the Amgen Scholars program.

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. For additional tips on identifying a mentor click here.

Please remember:

  • Students pursuing Amgen must be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or students with DACA status.
  • Students pursuing Amgen must complete the 10-week program from June 21 - August 25, 2023. Students must commit to these dates. No exceptions will be made.
  • Accepted students must live in provided Caltech housing.

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Project:  A high resolution study of AGN variability with TESS
Disciplines:  Astrophysics, Data Science
Mentor:  Matthew Graham, Prof., (PMA), mjg@caltech.edu, Phone: 6263958030
Mentor URL:  https://www.astro.caltech.edu/~mjg  (opens in new window)
Background:  We think that all galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center but most are not detectable. However, some have an accretion disk of infalling gas which outshines all the stars in the galaxy. These active galactic nuclei (AGN) were first identified at Caltech in 1963 and were already noted then to be variable in their brightness. 70 years later, we still do not really understand the physical mechanisms behind this variability but we are now being inundated with data from a variety of sky surveys, such as the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), that are allowing us to conduct systematic investigations of this phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of time series. These time series typically consist of a measurement (observation) once every two or three nights with total coverage spanning three to four years. This allows us to study AGN variability on month-to-year timescales but to study shorter timescale variability requires time series with a higher sampling rate.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a space telescope designed to search for exoplanets by continuously observing the same strip of sky for a month and then moving onto another, covering the whole sky over the course of year. This means that any object in the field-of-view bright enough to be detected will have a time series sampled every few minutes for almost over a month (and possibly more with repeat visits on annual timescales). There are potentially a few tens of thousands of AGN bright enough to have TESS coverage.
Description:  This project will consist of working with a dedicated data pipeline for extracting AGN time series from TESS data and analyzing the resulting data set with novel statistical techniques to investigate hour-to-month timescale variability. This will provide an important new systematic characterization that will help inform physical models and prepare for future sky surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).
References:  A novel variability-based method for quasar selection: evidence for a rest-frame ~54 day characteristic timescale: https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2014MNRAS.439..703G/abstract

Optical Variability of the Dwarf AGN NGC 4395 from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.04491.pdf

The LSST AGN Science Collaboration Roadmap (particularly the AGN Variability Science section): https://agn.science.lsst.org/sites/default/files/LSST_AGN_SC_Roadmap_260722.pdf

Student Requirements:  Fluency in Python; experience with Github
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

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

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