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Caroline Rebecca Nowlan & Gonzalo Gonzalez Abad - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Physics, Environmental Science: Atmospheric Science, Computer Science, Chemistry, Engineering, and Math

Advisors: Caroline Rebecca Nowlan & Gonzalo Gonzalez Abad

Department: Atomic and Molecular Physics Division

Background:

We study Earth's Atmosphere, in particular pollution and air quality. We use a broad range of observations, computational and data-analysis techniques to make satellite measurements of pollutants. These observations allow to investigate the global distribution of pollution, its sources and sinks.

Project:

Students working on research projects with us will be able to work on a variety of both theoretical and observational projects studying local and global distributions of trace gases using satellite and in-situ measurements.

Requirements:

  • Classes on intro-level physics and calculus are required.
  • In addition, students will be programming in Python or Matlab, so ideally will have either completed a relevant class, or have undertaken significant self-study in order to familiarize themselves with a relevant computer language before commencing their research project.
  • The main requirement is an enthusiasm to explore and learn!

Learning Elements:

Programming skills will be taught during the course of the project, as will the specific physics and statistical knowledge required to undertake the project.

Jason Eastman - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in: Astronomy, Physics, Statistics, Computer Science, Engineering, Math, and Data Sciences.

Advisor: Jason Eastman

Department: Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences

Background:

I work on instrumentation and exoplanets. I am the PI of MINERVA, which is a robotic Radial Velocity facility at Whipple observatory in Arizona dedicated to follow up of planet candidates from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). I am also the author of EXOFASTv2, a widely used public software suite that does global models for exoplanetary systems using a variety of data sources.

Project:

Students working on research projects with me will be able to work on a variety of both observational and instrumentation projects related to exoplanet discovery and characterization.

Requirements:

  • Familiarity with Unix/Linux systems and terminal operations.
  • Basic programming skills are strongly encouraged, especially Python.
  • Some physics/astronomy/statistics background would be helpful but is not necessary

Learning Elements:

  • Experience using linux based computers and numerical simulations Gaining familiarity with the use of super computers for scientific computing
  • Data processing and analysis techniques
  • Basics of the field of exoplanets
  • Writing for presentation of results in a scientific journal
  • Use of LaTeX and Overleaf document preparation software for papers

Daina Bouquin & Katie Frey - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in: Astronomy, Physics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Data Sciences

Advisor: Daina Bouquin and Katie Frey

Department: John G. Wolbach Library and Photographic Glass Plate Collection

Background:

The John G. Wolbach Library combines the collections of the Harvard College Obse rvatory (HCO) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), forming one of the world’s preeminent astronomical collections. In addition to being the Library for the CfA, Wolbach also recently became the administrative home of Harvard's Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection. The Plate Collection includes over 500,000 celestial moments captured in time dating back to the 1800's, and for the last twenty years a massive effort has been underway to digitize the Collection to make the Plates accessible and useful to the whole world. Now that the Plates are part of Wolbach's holdings, we have the opportunity to take more full advantage of the resources available through Wolbach's connections to the Harvard Library and the Smithsonian Institution to improve the digitization process and optimize the associated digital infrastructure.

Project:

Our intern will collaborate with Library staff to undertake digital forensics tasks in order to map the digital ecosystem associated with the legacy plate digitization workflow and photometry processing pipeline. This work will help us develop a new data management plan and workflow for the project.

Intern responsibilities:

  •  
  • Defining semantic relationships between digital objects
  • Gathering descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata
  • Identifying duplicated content
  • Contributing to project documentation
  • Developing content for presentation to the AAS History of Science Division

Desired skills:

  • Experience using Unix-based command-line interfaces
  • Familiarity with network storage systems
  • Interest in digital forensics

Learning Elements:

This project will expose an intern to a broad range of activities relevant to the design and management of scientific data archives, which are an essential part of the astronomy information landscape.

Sarah Jeffreson - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Astronomy, Physics, Statistics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Engineering, Math, Data Sciences

Advisor: Sarah Jeffreson

Department: Institute for Theory and Computation

Background:

Originally from Melbourne (Australia), I am currently an Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) Postdoctoral Fellow working at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. I received my PhD in November 2020 from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. The primary goal of my research is to understand the cycle of star formation across the wide variety of galactic environments present in our Universe. To this end, I use a combination of analytic theory and numerical supercomputer simulations to study the evolution of the giant, cold molecular gas reservoirs (Giant Molecular Clouds, or GMCs) in which stars are formed, and to connect this physics to the properties of the host galaxy, on larger scales.

Project:

Within a high-resolution computer simulation of the dwarf galaxy NGC 300, the student will analyze a sample of ~10,000 giant molecular clouds (GMCs) and their larger, lower-density parents: atomic hydrogen clouds (HI clouds). Our simulation includes state-of-the art, self-consistent modelling of the chemical pathways converting atomic to molecular hydrogen, so is ideally suited to studying the formation of GMCs from HI clouds. The focus of the project will be to uncover the physical properties of HI clouds that lead to GMC formation, and therefore to star formation. Such a detailed census has never before been conducted across an entire simulated disc galaxy, and will provide valuable insights into the lifecycle of GMCs. A possible extension to the project will be to look for a connection between the formation of GMCs and the larger-scale galactic environment (e.g. whether GMCs are more likely to form in the inner or the outer galactic disc).

Requirements:

  • Familiarity with Unix/Linux systems and terminal operations.
  • Basic programming skills are strongly encouraged, especially Python.
  • Some physics/astronomy/statistics background would be helpful but is not necessary.

Learning Elements:

Along with an introduction to the astrophysical field of star formation and the interstellar medium, the student will experience all aspects of the scientific process, including the analysis of the raw simulation data, developing an interpretation of the results, and communicating these results in both written format (a short report) and orally (at group/collaboration meetings). The student will also gain skills in Python computer programming: specifically they will learn to manipulate the simulation data in hdf5 format, to identify clouds in two-dimensional images of this data, and to extract the physical properties of these clouds from the full three-dimensional dataset.

Garrett Keating - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science, Statistics, Math, Atmospheric Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering

Advisor: Garrett "Karto" Keating

Department: Radio and Geoastronomy Division

Background:

I am a staff scientist at SAO, working on both technical and science projects on the Submillimeter Array (SMA). My scientific research is focused on the fuel of star formation – molecular gas – found in galaxies that are billions of light years away, seen when the Universe was only a few billion years old. The goal of this research is to understand how molecular gas evolves within galaxies like our own Milky Way galaxy over cosmic time, and on how one can use this gas as a tool to trace the larger scale structure of the Universe. My technical research generally involves novel applications of data for a variety of purposes, including everything from pointing the telescope to correcting for the impact that changing atmospheric conditions can have on a radio interferometer like the SMA..

Project:

There are several different research projects that students can potentially be involved in, from using archival data to discover new galaxies in fields used for calibration of the telescope, using different chemical tracers to measure the molecular gas properties of very bright (but very distant) galaxies, to assisting with an effort to make SMA capable of observing during the middle of the day.

Requirements:

  • Basic programming skills and basic familiarity with UNIX environments are necessary. Experience with Python, MATLAB, and/or C would be extremely beneficial.
  • Intro level courses on calculus and calculus required. Entry-level courses on astronomy, and/or statistics would also be an advantageous. Classes on linear algebra or advanced statistics would be beneficial, but not required.

Learning Elements:

Basic statistical analysis, linear regression methods, and data modelling, Python/MATLAB programming, handling of large datasets, radio metrology, observational methods in radio astronomy, sub-mm instrumentation, and research the formation and evolution of molecular gas within galaxies of the early Universe.

Julian Muñoz - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Astronomy, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Math, Data Sciences

Advisor: Julian Muñoz

Department: Optical and Infrared Astronomy Division

Background:

I grew up in Spain, where I majored in Physics at the Complutense University of Madrid. I moved to the US for graduate school in 2013, and after obtaining my PhD in Physics at Johns Hopkins in 2017 I came to Harvard. I was first a postdoc at the Harvard Physics Department, and since 2020 I’m a Clay Fellow at the CfA. My work is on theoretical cosmology, discovering what the universe is made of, which turns out to be mostly dark matter. I study how the first galaxies formed out of dark matter in the early universe. I run simulations and do pen-and-paper calculations to understand the first stars and black holes.

Project:

We do not know what are the properties of the first sources of light in our universe, especially in X-rays. However, new data from 21-cm telescopes will soon give us a way to detect the X-ray emission of the first stars, as X-rays will heat up the intergalactic medium and affect the 21-cm signal. Different types of X-ray emitters will leave different signatures. For instance, high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs, where one of the two stars is either a black hole or neutron star) are expected to dominate the X-ray signal if they are present during these times. The project consists of improving our understanding of the first X-rays sources by using 21-cm data. This will involve running cosmological simulations with the 21cmFAST code, varying the properties of the first X-ray sources, to understand which of them we are sensitive to. We will apply this knowledge to forecasted 21-cm data from the HERA experiment. This will allow us to tell whether the first sources of X-rays were indeed black holes in HMXBs.

Requirements:

  • Some experience with Python or other programming languages
  • Some knowledge or interest in astronomy or cosmology will be helpful
  • Ambitious student will be able to write a publishable paper with their findings

Learning Elements:

  • Experience using linux/OS X-based computers and numerical simulations
  • Data processing and analysis techniques
  • Basics of the field of cosmology and early-universe astrophysics
  • Writing for presentation of results in a scientific journal
  • Use of LaTeX and Overleaf document preparation software for papers

Edward Tong - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Engineering, Physics, Math and Computer Science

Advisor: Edward Tong

Department: Radio & Geoastronomy Division/Submillimeter Receiver Lab

Background:

The mission of the Submillimeter Receiver Lab at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is to develop high frequency receiver for radio-astronomy applications. The receivers under development are state-of-the-art have ultra-low noise performance and most of them are cryogenic. These receivers require precision mechanical design and fabrication, precision electronic control, as well as rigorous lab testing.

Project:

A number of projects are available depending on the skills and interest of the interns. For interns with mechanical engineering background, he/she can participate in mechanical layout and design using Solid Work, as well as helping out in optical alignment and cryogenic testing. For interns with electronic background or interest, he/she can participate in layout and testing of electronic boards used to control receiver components. For interns with interest in coding, he/she can be involved in the automation of receiver testing, which is done mostly with Python running on Raspberry Pi and PC platforms.

Requirements:

A subset of the following skills is desired:

  • Knowledge of mechanical engineering and 3D Solid Work design
  • Unix, Windows and Python programming
  • Sound mathematical background
  • Soldering and electronic board testing experience
  • Experience in using common lab equipment like power supply, signal generator, oscilloscope etc.
  • Ability to manipulate small objects under microscope

Learning Elements:

Our lab exposes interns to a broad range of activities relevant to the design and operation of precision scientific instrumentation. Such exposure will help one to gain experience in technical and scientific careers.

John ZuHone - Opening for Undergraduate Majors in the Following Fields: Physics, Astronomy, Computer Science, or any other Quantitative Discipline

Advisor: John ZuHone

Department: High-Energy Astrophysics Division

Background:

I am a scientist in the Chandra X-ray Center at SAO. Prior to arriving at the CfA, I finished my PhD at the University of Chicago in 2009, and did postdocs at the CfA, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and MIT. I study the hot plasma of galaxy clusters, known as the intracluster medium (ICM), primarily focusing on mergers between clusters. Most of my research is theoretical, using numerical simulations which are run on supercomputers. The gas features produced in galaxy cluster mergers can provide insight into the magnetization and plasma properties of the ICM. I also make mock observations of these simulations in X-rays to compare to observations from Chandra and other X-ray telescopes. I am also a lead developer for the yt Python package which is used to analyze and visualize simulation data.

Project:

The student will analyze simulation data of galaxy cluster mergers from N-body/hydrodynamics codes such as FLASH, GAMER, or Arepo. Two projects are available. The first is analyzing a small set of simulations where gas motions have been stirred up in the center of a large cluster. These simulations include magnetic fields and viscosity, but the magnetic field strength and/or the strength of the viscosity has been varied. The student will examine the features produced by the gas motions and the properties of the turbulence to determine what effect the magnetic fields and/or viscosity have on these observable features. The simulations themselves have already been performed by myself and thus only need to be studied for this research project. The second project involves running a small set of simulations where two large clusters are undergoing a major merger, and determining what properties of the underlying gas and dark matter distributions would allow the gas core of one cluster to be removed by the other during the merger. Such an extreme scenario has been suggested by observations of a few galaxy clusters, but it has never been seen in simulations. The student would run the simulations on the supercomputer themselves, trying different initial conditions for the clusters to determine if it is possible to remove the gas core from one of them.

Requirements:

  • Familiarity with Unix/Linux systems and terminal operations.
  • Basic programming skills are strongly encouraged, especially Python.
  • Some physics and astronomy would be helpful but is not required.

Learning Elements:

Both projects will emphasize learning the process of scientific research, including the analysis and interpretation of results, making scientific visualizations, writing the key findings into a short paper/summary, and presenting the findings to other scientists. The student will join and attend meetings in an active collaboration of galaxy cluster experts. In addition, the student will learn about galaxy clusters and the intracluster medium, numerical simulations, the physics of hot plasmas, X-ray astronomy, and basic Python programming.