Carnegie Mellon University

Current Undergraduate Research Opportunities

If you are interested in doing research on campus, below are some options for professors you might approach. Also, feel free to knock on doors or contact Professor Ryan for guidance. Send her an email or schedule a meeting

Still unsure? Check out the Gelfand Center's features on Prof. Alison and Prof. Tristram-Nagle to get a sense of what it means to conduct research as an undergraduate!

Astrophysics & Cosmology

Rupert Croft - Cosmology

Using deep learning to investigate the intergalactic medium

Tiziana Di Matteo - Astrophysics & Cosmology

Simulating the first galaxies and black holes at the cosmic dawn

Richard Griffiths - Astrophysics & Cosmology

Investigation of gravitationally lensed images in Hubble Space Telescope data, with the goal of constraining the properties of dark matter using gravitational 'folds'.

Tina Kahniashvili - Theoretical Cosmology

Topic 1: Gravitational waves from the early universe
Topic 2: Cosmological magnetic fields: their origin, evolution, and signatures

Ben Moews - Astrophysics & Cosmology

Exploring the use of randomized algorithms for the dark energy equation of state. The project will focus on constraints to alternative cosmologies with regard to gravity and dark matter, and will follow up on prior work in arXiv:1812.09786. Feel free to email me for details!

Jeff Peterson - Radio Astronomy and Cosmology Instrument Development

Students design and build radio astronomy receivers and use these to search for Fast Radio Bursts and the origins of the first stars which formed 200 million years after the Big Bang. We deploy these instruments to remote sites in Canada, South Africa, and desert islands such as Isla Guadalupe and Marion Island.

Biological Physics

Shila Banerjee

We are looking for motivated undergraduates to conduct theoretical and/or computational research in the area of biological physics. Possible projects include: modelling the growth and replication cycle of bacteria, phase transition in cells, computational modelling of cell mechanical properties. No prior knowledge of biology is necessary and the research projects can be conducted remotely. Prospective students are encouraged to browse through work done in our group.

Markus Deserno

My group is interested in theoretical and computational biophysics, with a focus on lipid membranes. Typical theory projects focus on membrane elasticity, shape/geometry, phase behavior, and the implications of lipid asymmetry across the leaflets of a bilayer. Computational projects approach the same subjects via molecular dynamics simulations of highly simplified models, or investigate how to measure a membrane’s elastic parameters by analyzing its fluctuations. For details, check out some of our recent work on our webpage If you’re interested in any of this, talk to me. As a prerequisite, you do not need a background in biology, but some familiarity with thermal/statistical physics is very useful. For computational projects, some experience with programming is needed, but you definitely don’t have to be seasoned coder.

Barry Luokkala

Optical Tweezers: A highly-focused laser can be used to manipulate biological material at the subcellular level. We are in the process of developing a new experiment for the Modern Physics Laboratory, based on the 2018 Nobel Prizewinning technique.

John Nagle

I have an x-ray diffraction project that would be suitable for a one semester undergrad research course. This project is of interest to me and is not just a make work for a student. The five undergrads doing research with me in this decade are co-authors on publications. I anticipate that this project would also result in a publication.

Fangwei Si

Our lab's drive is to discover “biological laws” that can help us understand living systems in a quantitatively precise way. Towards this goal, we develop/adapt tools, do rigorous measurements, and define new concepts. We are currently searching for simple yet fundamental rules connecting the complicated form of bacterial cells and their fitness in different environments. Please check out the lab website for more descriptions of our research. If you are curious about how living systems emerge from non-living matter and want to get your hands dirty in a wet lab, you are always welcome to contact us!

Stephanie Tristram-Nagle

The Tristram-Nagle lab uses x-ray diffuse scattering (XDS) with the Physics Dept. x-ray instrument or a synchrotron source to study the interaction between antimicrobial peptides and lipid model membranes that mimic real bacterial and eukaryotic membranes. These peptides are a promising new antibiotic to overcome the problem of bacterial resistance leading to super bugs. Physics students will learn how to collect and analyze x-ray data, make graphs and write results into papers. We also use circular dichroism to determine the secondary structure of the peptides as they interact with lipid membranes. Dr. Tristram-Nagle has openings for in-person students.

Newell Washburn

My group is interested in understanding the physics of aging using both experimental and computational methods in collaboration with Prof. Fabrisia Ambrosio at the University of Pittsburgh. The current focus is on modeling transcriptomic changes in muscle stem cells to elucidate alterations in information flow through the gene network as a function of organism age. Our computational tools include machine learning, information theory, and by drawing analogies with classical and statistical mechanics.

Condensed Matter Physics

Randy Feenstra - Experimental Condensed Matter

Simulation and/or curve fitting of spectroscopic data from a scanning tunneling microscopy or a low-energy electron microscope.

Steve Garoff - Applied Soft Matter Physics

Experimental projects on a wide variety of topics in wetting and the behavior of complex fluids

Sara Majetich - Small Angle Neutron Scattering of Magnetic Nanoparticles

This computational project will compare theoretical models of magnetization patterns in magnetic nanoparticles with data from small angle neutron scattering (SANS) experiments. Just as x-ray diffraction arises from the Fourier transform of the electronic charge distribution in a crystal, neutron scattering can be used to reveal the nanoscale magnetization. Working with collaborators at NIST and Oberlin College, the Majetich group has investigated many types of magnetic nanoparticles using SANS with polarization analysis. Here neutrons are polarized “spin up” or “spin down” before scattering, and afterward they are analyzed to see if there have been spin flip events due to the magnetization in the nanoparticles. SANS with polarization analysis was used to demonstrate non-uniform magnetization within nanoparticles [1]. When a magnetic field is applied, surface spins may cant reversibly, depending on the temperature and magnitude of the field. For magnetite, Fe3O4, the form factors of a sphere plus a spherical shell were sufficient to explain the experimental results, but with manganese ferrite, MnFe2O4, the magnetization pattern is clearly more complex. The approach will be to assume a magnetization pattern for the nanoparticles, divide them into two-dimensional slices, take the Fourier transforms, and add up the scattering contributions from the different slices. There is already a lot of experimental data that will be useful for comparison and model refinement. 

  1. Visualizing Core-Shell Morphology of Structurally Uniform Magnetite Nanoparticles, K. L. Krycka, J. A. Borchers, J. A. Borchers, Y. Ijiri, W. C. Chen. S. M. Watson, M. Laver, T. R. Gentile, S. Harris, L. R. Dedon, J. J. Rhyne, and S. A. Majetich, Phys. Rev. Lett. 104 207203 (2010); doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.207203.
Contact Professor Majetich

Simran Singh - Experimental Condensed Matter

Spin transport in atomically thin quantum materials

Mike Widom - Condensed Matter Theory

Professor Widom models the structure and thermodynamics of complex crystal structures using a combination of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Highly motivated students with strong computer skills are welcome to inquire about a research position.

Nuclear & Particle Physics

Roy Briere - Experimental Particle Physics

Belle II experiment at KEK; various software projects

Manfred Paulini and John Alison - Experimental Particle Physics

CMS experiment at CERN with various projects from hands-on instrumentation work to data analysis and also event classification using machine learning