Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Program

Faculty Mentor Project Descriptions

Note: This is a preliminary list only. Other faculty project descriptions will be added as they become available.

Observational Astrophysics

Professor David Tytler:

We have worked with one or more REU student each summer for many years now. For example, in the summer of 2003 our group contained three summer students (one from REU), 4 graduate students, one staff researcher and two full professors. Two of the summer students are continued to work with us through the year.



Professor Nguyen-Huu Xuong:

A summer REU student would be involved in a project dealing with the building of a new automatic detector for Cryo-Electron Microscopy. This is a new and exciting project that would allow the determination of 3D structure of protein complex without the need to grow large crystals.

A good background in electronic or computer programming is required.


Professor David Kleinfeld:

We are interested in sensorimotor aspects of brain function--in particular the algorithm used by animals to extract a stable picture of the world based on input through their actively moving sensors and sense organs. A variety of experimental approaches, which involve trained rats, direct electrical measurements, optical based measurements, and advanced signal analysis, are brought to bear on this issue. Other research interests include nonlinear optics and the application of nonlinear optics to cortical blood flow and neural function.

Professor Jose Onuchic:

Website address: Prof. Onuchic's personal research interests are: Theoretical and computational methods for molecular biophysics and chemical reactions in condensed matter. In protein folding, we introduced the concept of protein folding funnels as a mechanism for the folding of small fast folding proteins. Convergent kinetic pathways, or folding funnels, guide folding to a unique, stable, native conformation. Energy landscape theory and the funnel concept provide the theoretical framework needed both to pose and to address the questions of protein folding mechanisms. Connections between our theoretical advances and experiments are central for the development of this new view for protein folding. A second effort of our group focuses on the theory of chemical reactions in condensed matter with emphasis on biological electron transfer reactions. These reactions are central to the bioenergetic pathways of both animals and plants on earth, such as the early steps of photosynthesis.

Elementary Particles and Quantum Field Theory

Professor George Fuller:

An REU student working with my group would likely be involved with our effort to understand the neutrino physics/astrophysics of the early universe and stellar collapse. For example, we are trying to understand how lepton number could be generated from neutrino oscillations in the early universe. This work is likely to be numerically intensive. C and Fortran programming skills are desirable, but not required, as these can be learned "on the job."

Professor Vivek Sharma:

The UCSD Elementary Particle Physics group is developing a Data Acquisition system for the very high energy, high luminosity Large Hadron Collider. We are testing systems that will enable us to build events at a data rate of up to 100 GBytes per second. After the events are built we must reduce the rate of data to be stored to just 100 MByte per second. To make this reduction, trigger algorithms must be developed. This final step of the trigger will take place in a large "farm" of standard computers (about 4 TIPS). We are looking for students interested in either the hardware development or the Higher Level Trigger event selection development. The LHC should finally tell us about the origin of mass and the spontaneous breaking of symmetries in the vacuum. It may also find other interesting phenomena such as supersymmetry or quantum gravity effects.

Non-Linear Dynamics

Professor Henry Abarbanel:

We conduct research into the nonlinear dynamics of physical and biological systems including communication using chaotic transmitters and receivers. We are also investigating fundamental issues associated with classification and prediction in high dimensional systems, such as the lasers we use in communications. We also have an active effort in computational and laboratory neuroscience. We model individual and small networks of neurons, numerically and in analog circuits. We are exploring information flow in neural networks with application to the design of biological systems. Our experimental and modeling efforts work with crustaceans, cortex from mamallian brains, and the visual system of flies. In collaboration with other laboratories we study learning and memory in birdsong and the dynamics of invertabrate olfaction.

Experimental and Theory Plasmas and Fluids

Professors C. Fred Driscoll and Dan Dubin:

We are investigating the basic phenomena of vortices, turbulence, and weak viscosity in near-ideal 2-dimensional fluids, using magnetized electron plasmas as the "working fluid". An ion plasma apparatus with laser-cooling extends this work into the cryogenic high viscosity regime. See more information at Recent experiments discovered unusual "vortex crystal" states which form when intense vortices anneal into a lattice due to interactions with a weak background of vorticity. Analytical theory and vortex-in-cell computer simulations have clarified the dynamical processes involved. Other experiments have measured the weak viscosity that arises from long-range collisions between individual electrons, for comparison to analytic theory which includes the finite size of the system. Experimentally-oriented students will take data on an electron plasma apparatus with extensive electronics and computer-based diagnostics. Theoretically-oriented students will run (or develop new) simulations investigating the subtleties of collisional processes in sheared fluids.


Experimental and Theory Condensed Matter Physics

Professor Leonid Butov:

Our group performs experimental studies of cold exciton gases and cold electron-hole plasmas in semiconductor nanostructures by ultrafast and imaging spectroscopy. The phenomena of interest include the exciton Bose-Einstein condensation, exciton pattern formation, many-body effects. The student will participate in the experimental studies. Further information can be found at

Professor Dimitri Bassov:

In our research we employ infrared spectroscopy to investigate novel physics of novel electronic and magnetic materials. “Infrared” here is used colloquially since in fact our instruments allow us to cover much broader frequency range extending continuously from sub-THz to UV light. Current research directions include: Physics of strongly correlated electron systems Magnetic semiconductors Organic electronics Electromagnetic metamaterials
For more details, see

Massimiliano Di Ventra:

Our research focuses on the study of the electronic and transport properties of nanoscale structures. Undergraduate students will be involved in both numerical and analytical work aimed at describing how electrons behave in structures comprising a small number of atoms. We are particularly interested in understanding current fluctuations that occur in these systems as well as electron-ion interactions and their role in the generation of heat at the nanoscale.

Professor Michael Fogler:

Our research is focused on trying to understand theoretically how electrons behave inside ultrasmall structures, such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires, nanofibers, and how they can be manipulated and imaged, for example, by modern scanned microscopy probes. An interesting physics arises in this context when strong Coulomb interactions, disorder, and quantum effects conspire to create new correlated phases of electron matter with some unusual properties. Projects given to REU students will normally combine numerical simulations (in MATLAB or C) with some analytical theory work. Check for more information and updates.

Professor Brian Maple:

Our group performs experimental investigations of superconductivity, magnetism, and the interplay of these two phenomena.  We are especially interested in novel types of superconductivity that occur within, or in the vicinity of, magnetic phases and appear to be produced by magnetic interactions, in contrast to conventional superconductivity that arises from the electron phonon interaction.  In this project, single crystal specimens of copper oxide and rare earth intermetallic compounds that display novel types of superconductivity will be prepared and characterized.  Superconductivity, magnetism, and other phenomena exhibited by these materials will be studied by means of electrical resistivity, magnetic susceptibility, and specific heat measurements at low temperatures, at high pressures and in high magnetic fields.

Professor Ivan Schuller:

Our group is involved in a variety of problems in complex materials in reduced dimensionality. We are trying to bridge the gap between the three dimensional infinite solid and the atoms. This is a largely unexplored area in solid state physics, in which much of the current solid state activity concentrates. The type of phenomena explored include high and low temperature superconductivity and magnetism in a variety of configurations. This is done by using a large number of sophisticated materials preparation, state of the art vacuum and lithographic techniques, combined with sophisticated structural determination probes and a variety of physical property measurements such as magnetotransport, photoconductivity, magnetic and thermodynamic measurements in a wide range of temperature and magnetic field. Many of the above mentioned techniques are directly applicable in industrial processes. For further information please access

Professor Lu Sham:

Possibly one summer student, working with a group on numerical simulation of quantum operations for quantum computation or information processing in a system of semiconductor quantum dots or on spintronics. Web page:

Low Temperature Experimental Research

Professor John Goodkind:

Measurements, in this lab, of the velocity and attenuation of ultrasonic waves in solid 4He found an apparent phase change in the material below 200 mK. The nature of the phase transition could not be determined but more recently, other workers using different methods have claimed that the solid becomes a “supersolid” below about 200 mK. That is, a solid which has some of the properties of a supersolid (liquid 4He below 2.2K). If true this is a previously unobserved state of matter. We are building and running experiments on solid 4He to measure inelastic neutron scattering, heat wave propagation, acoustic properties, specific heat and melting pressure.

Comments from 2006 REU students:

“I would absolutely recommend the program to my friends. The weather. The labs. The professors. The beach. California. Repeat.”

“UCSD is a beautiful place to study. The professors, staff and students are very friendly. It was a great experience.”

“The REU Program is a wonderful experience overall and it gives you insight into what’s in store for grad studies.”

“I learned so much—I loved being able to work so closely with a P.I. and graduate students.”

“Everyone was open and friendly and very helpful. I learned a lot and gained an idea of what real research is like. Thank you!”

“This is an excellent opportunity to do exactly the things you can only read about in the textbooks.”

“I would definitely do it again given the chance!”

“I am much more certain about attending grad school, and doing research is a more appealing option to me than it used to be.”

“I very much want to come and join this department.”

“I really appreciated the actual research experience and access to the professors.”

“I have a deeper respect for the breadth of study and availability of equipment. I am very impressed with the UCSD Physics Department. From everyone I talked to and what I saw this summer, it is an excellent program with a lot of opportunities available.”


Prior Research Projects:

2005 Research Projects

2004 Research Projects

2003 Research Projects

2002 Research Projects

2001Research Projects

2000 Research Projects

1999 Research Projects

1998 Research Projects

1997 Research Projects

1996 Research Projects

1995 Research Projects