Undergraduate Research at UNH
The first step to joining a research group is finding out what positions are available. The UNH research groups often have openings for undergraduates. Feel free to contact any of the professors to discuss opportunities available in their groups; simply email them, and let them know that you are a physics undergrad interested in doing research. Talk with upper classmen to find out what research they are doing and how they got started.
There are a variety of ways to work with research groups. Both during the school year and in the summer, for pay or for credit. There are funding opportunities at UNH through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, or through the professors research grant.
You may wonder how an undergraduate can do research. Typically, you will be given a small part of a larger project (e.g. writing computer code to analyze data or building and testing a piece of a bigger instrument). You will work closely with others (your advisor, more senior undergraduates and graduate students). Expect it to take a semester or two to feel comfortable with the new tools you have to use (e.g. a new programming language) and with physics ideas, but with time, you will become more expert. Your research can end in a senior thesis, a presentation at the Undergraduate Research Conference, and perhaps even a publication.
Research differs from classroom work in many ways. You are working on a problem for which the answer is not known, and the process may be unclear. You will be far more independent and will have more opportunities for problem solving and creativity.
Undergraduate Research off-campus
There are also research opportunities outside of UNH that you could participate in over the summer. Here are some leads:
Undergraduate Research Highlights
Undergraduate Research Conference
Every year, many physics majors present their work at the Undergraduate Research Conference. This is a great opportunity to learn about what others are doing, and to present your own work.
Following are explanations of undergraduate research projects from past years.
Andy says that at first it was a lot of computer work—but as the project developed and the more he worked with the graduate students, faculty and other research scientists, he was able to learn something about the astrophysics which lay behind the numbers.
Bill spent three years in the UNH solid state laboratories. He worked on the pulsed laser deposition technique. Pulsed laser deposition is a method of building very thin layers of material on a substrate. Each pulse puts down a layer which is about ten atoms thick on a sapphire substrate. Bill controlled thickness and the composition of these layers to a great accuracy. Bill intends to go on into material science, and thinks the time he has spent in the laboratory has given real focus to his study of physics.
Kim worked for several years calibrating ion detectors to be flown a board a satellite called FAST. This involves measuring efficiency and effective gathering size of the detectors by exposing them to ions from accelerators before being launched into space. FAST is now in orbit. Kim has also worked with the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, on science education.
Dan worked with the Nuclear Physics Group on a scintillator fabrication project for the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF) CLAS large angle time-of-flight system. More recently, Dan tested the time-of-flight device for the Hall A spectrometers at TJNAF and developed high resolution gamma-ray detectors for the gamma-ray laser project.
The University of New Hampshire had a very active role in the designing and building of the satellite Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO). Since its launch aboard the space shuttle, UNH has also been involved in the daily maintenance and control of the telescopes on that satellite. Dan Pinard monitored the flow of data down from GRO to the scientists on the ground, as well as uploading to the satellite the daily lists of control commands. He said that one of the more interesting parts of this was his work as a filter -- as the data came in he flagged interesting events, and passed over the more mundane. Dan found that he was involved with a great deal of computer and control work and that his experience was very interesting, unique and beneficial to his future work as an engineer.
Two satellites which carry UNH detectors and are presently in orbit are WIND and POLAR. James Wang was a Computer Science major who enjoyed seeing the data stream down from these satellites into his software. He found it interesting to decode the NASA data stream. He had worked on software which builds a massive database which keeps track of the raw data, so that scientists could get to the parts of the data sets which would help them understand the world of the magnetosphere (which is a thousand miles up).
Jon was working on an ion gun which injected ions into Endohedral Fullerenes. A Fullerene is a unique configuration of carbon which has recently stimulated a great deal of interest in solid state physics and material science. The carbon lattice has arranged itself into a ball -- giving rise to the nickname Bucky Balls (named after Buckminster Fuller who promoted the geodesic dome buildings). Fullerenes are very stable and can be used to hold an ion. In Jon's research he wanted to implant an ion into a Fullerene. He was interested in studying the energy dependence for efficient and effective implantation -- for future studies of these ions.
Mark's desire to see many sides of active physics led him to work in solid state physics and on a satellite project. Mark received a grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program to build a scanning tunneling microscope. This microscope is used in our solid state laboratories to image Folleianear, a new configuration of carbon. Mark designed and fabricated all the parts of the microscope. He then assembled, tested and used the apparatus. Mark was also involved in designing a very small polarimeter to fly aboard a satellite. The polarimeter will measure the polarization of high energy gamma-rays.
CATSAT is a small UNH satellite which is presently being built and will be launched in 1998. It is specifically designed to look at x-ray bursts. Ron Pilotte was involved in the testing of x-ray sensitive photodynodes for CATSAT. Several dozen photodynodes will be mounted on this small satellite and pointed in several directions simultaneously -- which will help to pinpoint the source of these x-ray bursts. Ron found it interesting to be inside a research project and see not only how an instrument is built, but also how an international collaboration can work together to build a scientific experiment.
Tim worked on the development of a polarized helium gas system for two very different projects. The first project used 3He gas as a source of polarized neutrons for a target for a high-energy accelerator. Experiments were designed to probe the quark structure of the neutron. In the second application, polarized helium was used to enhance the resolution of magnetic resonance images (MRI) of parts of the human body for medical and scientific uses. In Tim's spare time, he fabricated unique metals which will be used for an experiment to study parity violation in nuclear forces. These experiments tested the left/right symmetry of nuclear forces.
Abby joined a research group as soon as she entered the University of New Hampshire. She worked in the Nuclear Physics Group on two projects. She has modeled the production of rubidium when a proton beam with several million electron volts of energy hits a krypton target. The rubidium will be the heart of a novel gamma ray laser. Abby was also involved in the construction of a phase-shifter for the control of polarized 3He gas. The 3He will be used as a target for experiments looking at the quark structure of the neutron. It is also being used to enhance the resolution of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Abby's group worked in collaboration with Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to use minute quantities of polarized helium to enhance the imaging of lungs and other organs.