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The AMNH Division of Physical Sciences, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY), is pleased to offer summer undergraduate 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 two or four year undergraduate degree program, who will not have completed a bachelor's degree before September 1, 2016. 

Project Titles for 2016 (Coming Soon!)


How to Apply

All students in the program must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent residents of the U.S.  Students must be entering or continuing in an Associates or Baccalaureate degree program following their internship.  The for deadline to apply for the Summer 2016 will be announced in early October.  Apply here.

2015 Physical Sciences REU Interns and their Research Projects


The 2015 Projects:


Investigating Prior Explosive Eruptive Activities at Mt. St. Augustine Volcano, Alaska

Mentor: Dr. Jim Webster (Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences)

Augustine is one of the more than 40 historically active volcanoes of the Aleutian arc that poses a risk to the inhabitants and businesses of southern Alaska. It has undergone 6 violent eruptions in the past 200 years, and has shown increased seismic activity in the past several months. As part of our ongoing research on volcanic rock samples representing explosive eruptions of Augustine during the past 2000 years, we are interested in working with a student on methods of determining the volatile (H2O, CO2, SO2, and Cl) abundances of magmas associated with past eruptive activities. The student will have the opportunity to gain experience in petrography, analytical methodologies including electron microprobe and FTIR, and experimental petrology.


Mosaic Map_PSREU

Trace Element Abundances In Meteorite Inclusions

 Mentor: Dr. Denton Ebel (Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences)

Chondritic meteorites are central to our understanding of the formation and accretion of the earliest solids formed in the solar system, the precursors to planets. Igneous silicate and metal inclusions -- chondrules, Ca-,Al-rich inclusions, metal grains -- free-floating in space combined to form the various chondrites. We seek to understand the distribution of trace elements such as rare earths among these inclusions in the CV chondrites. This provides a clue to how these inclusions formed and accreted to make bigger rocks. The student will receive a crash course in solar system origins and meteorite petrology. Working with Dr. Denton Ebel and colleagues, the student will describe inclusions, and then measure their trace element abundances using Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Results will be compared with ongoing work on the very different CO chondrites described by Crapster-Pregont et al. (2014)



Li isotopic measurements in spodumene, lithiophilite, mica, tourmaline, and beryl by LA-MC-ICPMS.

 Dr. Céline Martin (Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences)

 Lithium (Li) is a light, incompatible elements that preferentially partition into the liquid phase, whether melt or aqueous fluid, and thus is useful for tracking fluid-related processes in rocks. A current research, lead at the American Museum of Natural History, aims to understand fluid exchanges deep in subduction zones (several tens of km) using Li isotopes. The measurements are performed in situ, using a LASER coupled with a multi-collector mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) at Columbia University. However, no Li isotopic data are published on the natural minerals used as reference materials, and the first tests of interlab calibration highlight significant discrepancies depending on the method used (SIMS or LA-MC-ICPMS). The present project will consist in a detailed study of Li isotopes in spodumene, lithiophilite, mica, tourmaline, and beryl in situ by LA-MC-ICPMS, at low and medium resolutions. The results obtained will be compared with in-situ measurements performed by SIMS in the same minerals, when available.

The intern student would learn the process to prepare polished sections, as well as the use of a multi-collector mass spectrometer coupled with a LASER. Additionally, his/her results would be included in a following publication, which he/she would be one of the co-authors.



Petrology of the Lunar Highlands: Lithic Clasts in Lunar Meteorites

 Dr. Julianne Gross (Earth and Planetary Sciences, Division of Physical Sciences)

The Moon, especially its highland crust, provides a unique record of the planetary formation and early evolutionary processes and contains a wealth of information about the origin and evolution of the Earth-Moon system that existed during the first billion years of the solar system’s history. A strong framework for lunar history and evolution has been developed through extensive petrologic, geochemical, and isotopic studies of returned lunar samples. In recent years, our knowledge of the lunar highland crust has advanced enormously through results from lunar meteorites. Lunar meteorites are rock fragments that were ejected from the Moon by impact events. They come from random sites on the Moon; some formed at sites far distant from the regions samples by Apollo and Luna and thus are crucial for understanding and extending our knowledge of early lunar petrogenesis.

The student who will work with me will analyze a lunar meteorite, classify its lithologies through geochemistry, and gain experience in element mapping. The student will learn to use the electron microprobe to analyze the major and minor elements (and do element mapping) of the different lithologies in the meteorite. By the end of the project we know what rock types are present in unsampled parts of the Moon and place our microscopic data in a general macroscopic framework of lunar evolution.



Scylla: Multi-Code Hydrodynamical Simulations of Galaxy Gas Halos

Dr. Ariyeh Maller (Astrophysics, Division of Physical Sciences)

One of the primary methods of studying galaxy formation is through the use of cosmological hydrodynamical simulations.  Such simulations have many promising results creating realistic galaxies. However, we lack an understanding of to what degree different codes give the same results. For example, the figure shows the same galaxy simulated with three different codes, AREPO, ENZO and RAMSES; the middle and rightmost image are both created with yt, allowing for easy comparison, but the leftmost image is not which makes comparison harder.  The object of this project is to study the same galaxy simulated with six different commonly used codes to identify what degree of agreement there is between codes.  The student will learn to visualize and analyze simulations using the program yt and contribute to the development of yt which does not yet support all six codes.


PiscB_color pic

Neutral Hydrogen Gas In Low Mass Dwarf Galaxies

Dr. Jana Grcevich (Astrophysics, Division of Physical Sciences)

Description - One of the biggest questions in astrophysics is the nature of dark matter, and understanding the population of faint dwarf galaxies within the Local Group may be a key to understanding this question. In particular, our best simulations of how dark matter forms structure in the universe predicts far too many small halos of dark matter as compared to the number of dwarf galaxies we see in the Local Group. My project will explore these questions by exploring the neutral hydrogen (HI) gas content of a population of newly discovered, low mass dwarfs to determine if their gas properties match the properties of gas containing dwarfs in simulations. An Arecibo-based survey called GALFA-HI will be used to determine the HI content of the new dwarfs. Then the HI content and estimated distances of the dwarfs will be compared to simulations to determine if the distribution of HI containing dwarf galaxies agree with the predictions of the simulations.




Studying Galaxies With COSMOS

Dr. Charles Liu (Astrophysics, Division of Physical Sciences)

Description - The Cosmological Evolution Survey (COSMOS) is a multiwavelength astronomical survey designed to probe the formation and evolution of galaxies as a function of cosmic time and large scale structure environment.  The COSMOS survey has detected more than two million galaxies, and involves more than 100 scientists in a dozen countries.  We will use this vast, cutting-edge survey's data and archives to examine the birth, death, and aging processes of interesting galaxy sub-populations such as faint blue galaxies, star-forming dwarfs, and giant ellipticals.




When Starbirth Dies: The Mystery of E+A Galaxies

Dr. Charles Liu (Astrophysics, Division of Physical Sciences)

Description - Beautiful star-forming spiral galaxies don't stay that way forever.  Powerful cosmic events such as galaxy collisions can disrupt and ultimately end star formation in galaxies.  What happens next?  It turns out that the processes that govern the quenching of star formation must be understood before galaxy evolution can be understood as a whole.  For this project, we will study in detail the properties of some 600 galaxies in the midst of having their star-birthing activity curtailed.  Known as E+A galaxies because of their unique spectroscopic properties in visible light, we will see how their appearance in other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum - and, correspondingly, the astrophysics they reveal - sheds light on the fate of galaxy populations universally.

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