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Kat Barger, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Project: Galaxy evolution through the gas flowing within and around them.

Galaxy evolution through investigating the gas flowing within and around them. The formation of new stars in galaxies requires the availability of gas. As galaxies rapidly consume their gas supplies in stellar production, they rely on external gas supplies to produce stars on long time scales. Possible projects include an investigation of the gas enclosed within galaxies to determine how conducive that environment is for forming stars, tracking the gas flowing in and out of galaxies to explore how galaxies obtain new gas supplies or loose their gas to their surroundings, and examining how the environment of galaxies affects their evolution by studying galaxies that are interacting with other galaxies. These projects could utilize data obtained from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS/MaNGA), the Wisconsin H-alpha Mapper (WHAM) telescope, the McDonald Observatory, and others. The student will learn how to analyze these observations through the use of computer programing and astronomical software. Students will learn how to determine the properties of the gas in or around galaxies (temperature, ionization state, etc.,) to decipher the processes that are influencing that gas and how that gas is ultimately tied to the evolution of galaxies.<\p>

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Jeff Coffer, Professor of Chemistry

Project: New Porous Cardiovascular Materials.

This project focuses on the fundamental properties of a porous form of the common elemental semiconductor silicon (Si), the mainstay of modern electronic devices. Porous silicon (pSi), with its nanoscale architecture, is a promising resorbable biomaterial for a broad variety of possible uses, including in vivo biosensors, tissue engineering, and carrier for controlled drug delivery. The most conventional methods for preparing porous silicon involve electrochemical etching, but these require solid elemental crystalline silicon feed stocks and the use of corrosive hydrofluoric acid and organic solvents. An alternative source for manufacturing pSi is from silicon accumulator plants/agriculture waste, as many land-based plants typically absorb bio-available silicon in the form of silicates such as orthosilicic acid. There are two specific aims identified in this research project. In part one, the student participant will fabricate nanostructured porous silicon using an eco-friendly route using so-called silicon accumulator plants such as bamboo. She/he will then characterize this new material using a combination of scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray diffraction (XRD), and related techniques. In part two, they will load particles of nanoporous silicon with selected therapeutic(s), optimize this process, and evaluate its medicinal efficacy using an established in vitro model.<\p>

For more information:


Hana Dobrovolny, Assistant Professor of Physics

Project: Mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.

This research program uses mathematical models to explore the dynamics of infectious diseases. The models typically consist of systems of differential equations that describe the interaction of viruses and cells. Students will use a combination of mathematical analysis and computer simulation to investigate aspects of infectious disease such as drug resistance, co-infections, the immune response, and the effect of drug treatment.

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Peter Frinchaboy, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Project: Fundamental Parameters of Star Clusters.

Star clusters are a key tracer of the chemical and dynamical evolution of the Galaxy; however, most remain poorly studied.  New surveys, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS/APOGEE), Spitzer/GLIMPSE I, II, 3D and 360 surveys and the ESA Gaia Satellite, allow the study of hundreds of clusters that have previously been neglected.  The uniform photometry and spectroscopy data from these surveys allow the detail analysis to be conducted in a uniform way.  The student will learn basic astronomical software and techniques and be involved in the analysis of one or more clusters to isolate the cluster from the contaminating field population and determine the cluster’s fundamental parameters (e.g., age, distance, reddening, chemical abundances).
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Karol Gryczynski, W. A. Moncrief Professor of Physics
Project: Novel Methods for Ultrasensitive Detection of Diseases.
For many years fluorescence technology has been the foundation of numerous analyses in sensing, medical diagnostics, biotechnology, and gene expression. As an example, DNA sequencing by fluorescence was first reported in 1987, resulting in completion of the sequencing of the human genome by 2001, just 14 years later. For last 20 years fluorescence detection is considered as one of the most sensitive technologies that has been successfully replacing biochemical assays and radioactivity in medical testing. Fluorescence methods have quickly extended to microscopy enabling single molecule detection and single molecule studies. Recently emerging fluorescence-based technology which takes advantage of quantum-photonic interactions of fluorophores with surface plasmons in nanometer thin metallic films and nanostructures opens novel possibility for further enormous enhancement in fluorescence sensitivity. This new concept for developing detection devices for fast and reliable biochemical and biomedical detection presents incredible potential for use in microscopy, biological assays, immunoassays, and for studying biophysical properties of macromolecules on a nanoscale level. Our goal is to utilize these new nano-photonic phenomena for development of generic assay platform for detecting physiological markers. Our interest is to develop technologies that could be easily adopted for detection of cardiac and cancer markers directly in blood. Coronary heart disease and cancer are leading causes of mortality in developed countries across the world. Developing reliable methods of early blood and serum maker detection is a crucial step towards risk stratification and successful preventive care. The student projects would involve participating at various steps of the development like antibody and sample preparation, nonophotoni platform assembly, or test measurements.
For more information:


Benjamin Janesko, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Project: Quantifying electron delocalization.

The Janesko group develops and applies electronic structure theory for molecules, surfaces, and solids. We are developing a new set of tools for quantifying the nonclassical "delocalization" of electrons in chemical bonds. These are related to a new class of Rung 3.5 approximations we've developed for density functional theory (DFT) electronic structure calculations. We also apply existing electronic structure methods to understand a wide variety of chemical reactions, ranging from the iron-catalyzed production of liquid transportation fuels from natural gas, to the acid-catalyzed production of valuable chemical intermediates from woody plant material.

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Rhiannon Mayne, Assistant Professor of Geology and Curator of the Monnig Meteorite Gallery
Project: Characterizing meteorites in the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Collection.

My research interests lie primarily in the interdisciplinary field of planetary science, which encompasses physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology.  I am interested in how planetary bodies like the Earth differentiate, or how they form a crust, mantle, and core.  The answers to this question are not found on Earth because it is an active planet and does not preserve its earliest history.  However, the asteroids have not been subjected to the same processes and, as such, preserve the processes occurring during the early Solar System.  In order to study the formation of differentiated asteroids I employ both ground-based telescope date and meteorite studies, as the vast majority of meteorites come from the asteroid belt. 
Planetary science research at TCU benefits greatly from the Oscar E. Monnig Meteorite Collection, which is one of the largest University based meteorite collections.  Projects will be tailored to student interests and depend on what courses the student has taken so far in their undergraduate careers but will likely include topics such as characterizing unclassified meteorites in the collection and comparing spectroscopic data of asteroids to similar meteorite data.
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Bruce Miller, Professor of Physics
Project: Dynamical Systems Theory and Computation.
Getting a grip on the role of nonlinearity in Physics has produced the Chaos revolution. During the last two decades it has influenced nearly every branch of physics from the instabilities of stellar atmospheres to the beating of the human heart. In my group we employ idealized nonlinear models, which are amenable to both numerically accurate simulation and mathematical analysis to study the statistical physics and thermodynamics of systems with long-range forces. These models provide a fertile testing ground for current theories. Recently we have used a dynamical systems approach to investigate models of both gravothermal catastrophe and structure formation in the early universe. Experimentalists at the University of Texas have employed our related work on the theory of low dimensional accelerated billiards to demonstrate chaos with laser-trapped atoms. In addition, mathematicians have proved the existence of strong ergodic properties, i.e. chaos, in these models and educators have incorporated them into popular texts. Past experience at TCU has shown that motivated undergraduate science majors enjoy solving problems involving nonlinear dynamics. Moreover, they have made useful contributions to a number of articles published in the standard literature. In carrying out their work, students become acquainted with basic dynamical methods and develop valuable programming and model building skills. In addition they are introduced to some of the seminal literature in the field and learn how to use on-line resources to determine what has already been established by others.
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C.A. Quarles, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Emeritus Tutor
Project: Characterization of materials using positron annihilation spectroscopy.
The two types of positron annihilation spectroscopy: (1) positron lifetime and (2) Doppler broadening are complementary and are widely used to characterize defects and voids in materials. The positron lifetime is sensitive to the density of electrons in a material, while the Doppler broadening of the annihilation gamma ray is sensitive to the momentum distribution of the electrons in a material. Positron spectroscopy is readily accessible to an undergraduate with some experience in physics or chemistry and is very well suited to a summer REU project. The basic principles and experimental techniques can be learned quickly, and the student gets hands-on experience in sample preparation, running experiments, data collection and data analysis. The scope of a problem can be adjusted so that the student typically can complete a project in ten weeks that can be presented at a scientific meeting such as the Texas Section meeting of the American Physical Society. A variety of materials are currently under investigation including metal oxides, metal alloys, polymer films, and polymer composites with carbon, metal or nano-particle fillers.
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Magnus L. Rittby, Associate Dean of College of Science & Eng., Professor of Physics
Project: Quantum Mechanical Scattering, Molecular Structure and Dynamics.
The students will be involved in the development and application of new and existing quantum theoretical models in atomic and molecular physics. Small projects involving the interpretation of experimental data from the TCU molecular spectroscopy group enables a REU student to interact with both theoretical as well as experimental parts of a physical problem, possibly in the collaboration with another REU student. Anticipated projects will focus on modeling of quantum mechanical scattering as well as molecular structure and dynamics.


Yuri M. Strzhemechny, Associate Professor of Physics
Project: Optoelectronic surface properties in nanoscale oxides.
Nanoscale oxides came to the forefront as an object of vigorous research because of the potential of these materials to yield numerous breakthrough applications, the effectiveness of which strongly depends on the microscopic properties. Many of such applications involve essentially surface phenomena, which in turn strongly depend on the surface quality, and hence on the surface state properties. However, as of today, despite a substantial research effort in recent years on oxides systems with nanosclale dimensions, understanding of these properties is largely lacking. It turns out that even the most fundamental questions are presently not answered, such as the existence of localized purely surface electronic states at clean stoichiometric surfaces, as well as the influence of surface defects (intrinsic and extrinsic) on the electronic surface structure in nanocrystalline oxides. It is possible that at the moment the oxides’ surface is too complicated a system for unambiguous theoretical predictions because of the multiplicity of control parameters, and hence only an adequate experimental approach can settle the uncertainties. Thus, the main task of the ongoing research activities in our lab is to experimentally establish a clear picture of the surface electronic states in the studied materials. Oxide nanostructures reveal a remarkable variety of morphologies, and this can be a key factor allowing for a systematic investigation addressing these fundamental issues. We will offer REU students an opportunity to investigate multiple nanoscale oxides systems with a wide range of nanomorphologies, dimensionalities, sizes, and functionalities. The students will learn a range of important and popular surface-specific and surface-sensitive characterization probes and processing tools (surface photovoltage, Auger electron spectroscopy, remote plasma treatment) as well as other defect-sensitive probes and procedures (photoluminescence spectroscopy, resistive annealing, etc.). A separate question addressed in the context of this approach will be how one can controllably manipulate the electronic structure in nanocrystalline oxides. Design and modification of experimental hardware and software will be encouraged during the REU collaboration.

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