Research Experience for Undergraduates
The AMNH Division of Physical Sciences, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY), is pleased to offer summer research opportunities in Astrophysics and Earth and Planetary Sciences. The program is open to all students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, in any four year undergraduate degree program, who will not have completed a bachelor's degree before September 1, 2013.
How to Apply
The application deadline for summer 2013 has passed.
About the Program
The program will run between 2 June 2013 and 10 August 2013.
Successful applicants will receive a stipend of approximately $5,100. In addition, dormitory housing on a nearby university campus, or an equivalent housing stipend, will be provided together with a subsistence allowance. Based on need, travel costs to and from New York City are also covered.
Projects for 2013
Apatite in Martian meteorites: the search for water in the Martian interior
Advisor: Juliane Gross
Understanding the distribution and behavior of volatiles in Martian magmas and the corresponding mantle provides crucial constraints on planetary properties such as mantle melting temperatures and melt production, as well as the availability of magmatic fluids for any potential occurrences of life. Current evaluations of the pre-eruptive volatile concentrations of Martian magmas are based on analyses of hydrous minerals in Martian meteorites such as apatite, because they record the volatile content (OH, F, Cl) of their parental magmas. The student who will work with me will gain experience in element mapping (particularly P) on the electron microprobe to identify apatite grains within the Martian meteorite NWA6963. The student will analyze major and minor elements of apatite grains in this meteorite as well as their volatile content (Cl, F, H2O). By the end of the project we will then use the composition of those apatites to calculate fluorine, chlorine, and water fugacity ratios for the parental magma of NWA 6963, and compare them to other Martian meteorites to place constraints on the volatile content in the Martian interior.
Determining the volume of objects in chondritic meteorites using computed tomography
Advisors: Ellen Crapster-Pregont and Denton Ebel
We live in a 3D world, but geoscientists often rely on 2D analyses. The difficulty lies in drawing 3D implications from 2D results. This project will focus on data acquisition and analysis of computed tomography (CT) scans to obtain real size information for objects in meteorites. Chondrites, a type of stony meteorite, are composed of different types of objects (chondrules, Ca- and Al-rich inclusions [CAI], Fe-Ni metal) held together by a very fine-grained matrix. Each type of object records different chemical, thermal, and dynamical processes regarding the solar system before planet formation. Due to the relative scarcity and friability of chondritic material, disaggregation studies of all object types are limited. High-resolution CT scanners are able to image small pieces of chondrites in 3D without requiring sample destruction. In combination with sectioning, both 3D and 2D size information can be obtained with minimal material loss. The student will receive a crash course in planetary science in addition to training on CT operations.
Erupting Dwarf Novae in Globular Clusters
Advisors: Mike Shara and Dave Zurek
The cores of globular star clusters are amongst the densest stellar environments in the Universe. Stars are packed a million or more times closer to each other than in the solar neighborhood. Interactions between single and binary stars lead to the formation of strongly interacting white dwarf - main sequence star binaries. The white dwarfs in such binaries "cannibalize" their companions, leading to dwarf nova eruptions every few weeks or months. During an eruption a dwarf nova brightens a hundredfold in just a day, and then returns to quiescence. Theory predicts that tens of dwarf novae should exist in most clusters, but our own Hubble Space Telescope observations typically detect just a few in each of the handful of thoroughly searched clusters.
Currently, the only instrument capable of resolving the cores of globular clusters is the Hubble Space Telescope. Our summer REU student will process Hubble Space Telescope archival images in several unexamined clusters, searching for erupting dwarf novae. These clusters are chosen to be of lower density than all previously examined clusters, as high densities may be responsible for quickly destroying the dwarf novae in the clusters we have examined so far.
Magnetic Reconnection in Planet Forming Accretion Disks
Advisor: Jeff Oishi
Magnetic fields permeate the plasma that makes up the universe. The disks of dust and gas where planets are thought to be formed are no exception. Magnetic field lines change their topology by in a poorly understood process called reconnection. Understanding reconnection is crucial to understanding the evolution of these disks. It may even play a fundamental role in explaining the formation of chondrules - tiny spherical grains in meteorites that may be the first solids to have formed in the solar system. For this project, you will use supercomputer simulations, large-scale data analysis, and mathematical approximations to study magnetic fluids undergoing reconnection in planet forming disks. Together we will try to unravel the mystery of reconnection in disks by constraining what the range of length and time scales it acts over and how it may drive or be driven by turbulence.
Collisions between sedimenting dust in protoplanetary disks
Advisor: Alex Hubbard
The first step in making rocky, Earth-like, planets requires making boulders out of the raw material available: tiny, micron sized, interstellar dust grains. This occurs through the random collisions and sticking of the dust grains orbiting around the host star, as long as the collisions are not so fast that the grains fragment. We will use numerical simulations to study how often and fast these collisions occur when the dust grains are both stirred by turbulence and subject to slow drift (like dust in the atmosphere drifting to the ground).
Analysis of X-Ray Element Maps of CR Chondrites
Advisors: Shawn Wallace and Denton Ebel
The CR chondrites are central to our understanding of the formation and accretion of the earliest solids formed in the solar system, the precursors to planets. Yet even today, we poorly understand the relative abundances, sizes, shapes and compositions of the free-floating objects in space that combined to form the various chondrites! Each of these igneous silicate and metal inclusions -- chondrules, Ca-,Al-rich inclusions, metal grains -- is petrologically fascinating in its own right. The student will receive a crash course in solar system origins and meteorite petrology. The student will measure inclusions in aggregate, by applying quantitative image analysis to x-ray element maps obtained from the electron microprobe. Results will be compared with earlier work on the very different CV chondrites described by Brunner et al. (2008) and Ebel et al. (2009).
Studying Galaxies with COSMOS
Advisor: Charles Liu
COSMOS is a Hubble Treasury survey centered on the largest contiguous patch of sky ever imaged with the Hubble Space Telescope. Together with a massive international multiwavelength followup that will continue for years to come, this remarkable window on the distant universe is being applied to answer a wide variety of astronomical questions. Among the many studies being conducted is a detailed examination of strongly star-forming galaxies in the survey -- measuring their luminosities, morphologies, environments, spatial distributions, and much more. The eventual goal of such a study would be to interpret and understand the changes that have occurred in the field galaxy population as a function of cosmic time.