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Undergraduate Opportunities

One of the advantages of attending the University of Michigan, one of the world’s largest research universities, is the many opportunities to participate in forefront scientific exploration.  The faculty of the Physics Department has a long tradition of engaging undergraduate students in their research programs. Working with faculty, post-docs, and graduate students on real-world problems is an important supplement to classroom education. Students are strongly encouraged to get involved early in their undergraduate tenure and take full advantage of research offerings from both the Department and the University. Here are some suggested ways to participate:

1. Many faculty have their own funding available for undergraduate research assistants.  Don’t hesitate to inquire directly with any member of our faculty about possible opportunities.

2. Independent study class credit (Physics 415).   These projects are arranged with a faculty mentor who you can contact directly. (Don’t be shy!) To help in finding an area of interest please see our research areas.  Other resources to learn more about faculty research includes the weekly minicolloquium and the Society for Physics Students (SPS) bi-weekly meetings. SPS meetings are good for networking within the department.

3. As a paid research assistant. Faculty often hire undergraduate students to part-time employment and even full-time for the summer. Arrange this with a faculty mentor (see link in 1 above).

4. Senior thesis (Physics 496/497) and Honors thesis (Physics 498/499) projects. These are arranged with a faculty mentor (see the link in 1 above) and can often grow organically from research performed as an assistant or from independent study. Learning to communicate your research findings is critically important to your career, scientific or otherwise.

5. Find research projects through the University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) with participation focused on first and second year students.

6. Work as a summer REU student at another college or university that has funding from the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, see links below. This may broaden your UM research experience. If you need some help getting started in undergraduate research please talk with one of our Physics Faculty Advisors.

Research Programs

The Research Experience for Undergraduates Program, funded by the National Science Foundation, gives undergraduate students the opportunity to spend a summer at another university researching under the direction of faculty and other researchers. University of Michigan students are encouraged to consult the list of universities offering this summer program and apply to take part. A website and primary contact are listed for each program.

UM REU Program for External Students

The 2014 Summer REU Program at the University of Michigan will run from June 2nd to August 8th. Applicants are required to send transcripts, 2 letters of recommendation, and fill out the online application (available December 2013).

For full consideration, applications should be received by Friday, February 21st, 2014. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, and students with outstanding applications may be admitted earlier.

Information about the University of Michigan REU Physics Program:

The University of Michigan Physics Department Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (REU) in Physics provides selected undergraduate students** from around the United States an opportunity to conduct ten weeks of summer research with some of the country's leading physicists in a range of experimental physics fields. The program is conducted in concert with the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and is supported by funds from the National Science Foundation. REU students have the opportunity to participate in laser and radiation safety training classes and also a specially designed instrumentation shop class that provides training in the use of shop tools.

**Please note: Unfortunately, our funding doesn't allow for us to fund non-US citizens or students from the University of Michigan. Support can be granted to permanent residents with the proper documentation.

Students who are selected to participate in the program will receive:

  • A stipend of $4,900.
  • Travel reimbursement up to $450 for travel to and from Ann Arbor.
  • An MCard containing $200 for food via Blue Bucks
  • Access to all university recreational facilities.
  • Access to the Society of Physics Students (SPS) office.
  • Housing near campus.
  • University of Michigan email account.
  • Access to world-class research facilities.
  • One-on-one instruction from internationally recognized faculty.

Active REU research areas in Physics at Michigan include:

  • Astrophysics/Cosmology
  • Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Theory
  • Condensed Matter Experiment
  • High Energy Theory
  • High Energy Experiment
  • Nonlinear Dynamics/Complex Systems
  • Nuclear Physics/Medical Physics

Examples of research projects previous students have participated in are listed below.  Similar projects will be offered this year, the exact list of projects will depend on the student's expressed interest and faculty availability.  Applicants will be asked to identify their area of interest in the online application and may provide additional details in the essay.


  • Myron Campbell-The next generation experiment to elucidate CP violation will take place at the JPARC laboratory in Japan.  The experiment is to measure the branching ratio of kaons to a pion and two neutrinos, which is expected to be 2.8 x 10^-11.  The goals of the summer project is to work on developing a system to acquire data from the experiment and distinguish between the dominate decay modes and the rare decay modes


  • Rachel Goldman - Recently, nanostructure arrays have shown significant promise for various applications in electronics, optoelectronics, and photonics. For example, ordered arrangements of metallic nanostructures within semiconductors would enable 3D negative index metamaterials which selectively operate within the infrared and visible frequency ranges. In addition, ultra-high density semiconductor quantum dot (QD) arrays are promising for record efficiency photovoltaic cells. Finally, metal-semiconductor core-shell nanostructures, which enable controlled coupling of surface plasmons to fundamental excitations, are promising for coherent plasmonic sources. Our approach involves the fabrication of arrays of nanoscale metal droplets on compound semiconductor surfaces. The nanodroplets are subsequently overgrown by semiconductor layers or converted to QD arrays via exposure to a group V flux prior to overgrowth. Presently, we utilize a focused-ion-beam (FIB) to fabricate metal nanodroplets. However, this method is limited to group III droplets. E-beam lithography would enable the use of potentially any metal. The objective of this summer project is to compare the formation and optical properties of FIB-fabricated and E-beam-fabricated Ga nanodroplets on GaN surfaces.
  • Vanessa Sih - Our group conducts optical measurements of electron spin dynamics in semiconductors and quantum dots.  Students working in our group will learn semiconductor physics, device fabrication, how to collect, analyze and interpret data, and work with lasers and cryogens.
  • Lu Li - We are an experimental condensed matter research group working on strongly correlated materials. We are interested in the magnetic and electronic properties of new materials, ranging from oxide interface, frustrated quantum magnets, and high temperature superconductors. One special technique is to detect weak magnetic moment by measuring the magnetic torque with a thin soft cantilever. The REU project focuses on searching and testing new materials for constructing cantilevers for torque magnetometry.


  • Jennifer Ogilivie- 1. Our group is seeking an undergraduate student to work towards developing an ultrafast, molecular scale microscope for studying energy transfer between single molecules on the femtosecond time scale.  The instrument will be used to characterize a wide array of energy transfer processes in natural and artificial light-harvesting systems, providing insight into the physics of energy transfer at the single molecule level. The project will involve the collection of fluorescence images, and writing software for data analysis and interpretation.
  • 2. Two-photon fluorescence microscopy offers many advantages for biological imaging, including enhanced depth penetration, axial sectioning and reduced photobleaching. Conventional two-photon microscopes are limited in the number of fluorescent species that they can image simultaneously. Our group is seeking an undergraduate student to develop multicolor two-photon fluorescence microscopy based on pulse-shaping of broadband femtosecond pulses. The method will enable simultaneous imaging of the spatial distributions and interactions of multiple chemical species in biological samples.The project will involve collecting two-photon fluorescence images, and writing software for data acquisition, analysis and interpretation. Students working on the project will learn about optical microscope design and the manipulation and characterization of femtosecond pulses.



  • Roy Clarke- This group specializes in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Matter at the nanoscale  (a few atomic diameters) exhibits remarkable properties,  and some of these were  even used  by  medieval  artists to produce the vibrant colors of stained glass windows. Modern technology has found many uses for nanoparticles,  including storing quantum information, and capturing and storing energy from the Sun. In this project, we will investigate  novel semiconductor nanoparticles ('quantum dots') and measure their opto-electronic properties.



  • David Gidley-Our group is probing nanomaterials with antimatter. Positrons (anti-electrons) are used to probe the nanometer-scale structure of nanoporous materials for microelectronics, membranes, hydrogen fuel storage, and gas sequestration. We work with a host of collaborators at universities, industry, and NIST. This research involves nuclear particle detection, radiation safety techniques, vacuum technology, and data acquisition, analysis, and presentation.



  • Aaron Leanhardt-Narrow linewidth CW lasers are ideal tools for precision atomic and molecular spectroscopy, as well as for laser cooling and trapping of atomic gases at microKelvin temperatures.  The goals of this REU project are to stabilize and characterize the linewidth of lasers spanning the visible spectrum.  These lasers will be used to detect optical transitions in ytterbium atoms and/or tungsten carbide molecules.  Knowledge of these optical transitions is a key element for future experiments aimed at searching for physics beyond the Standard Model.



  • Georg Raithel- We investigate Rydberg excitations in many-body cold-atom ensembles. It is anticipated that the REU student will be given a fabrication project that is suitable in scope and is associated with one of the experiments. The REU student will develop work-shop, electronics and general lab skills that are relevant in atomic-physics research. The REU student will learn about vacuum systems, electron- and ion detection, different kinds of lasers, and atom-trapping methods. The REU student will assist the research group in taking and evaluating data using computer-based data acquisition and analysis tools. More information about the lab environment can be found at and



  • Greg Tarle-The Dark Energy Survey will employ a wide-field camera on the Blanco 4-m telescope to study dark energy.  The camera will utilize the largest astronomical filters ever produced.  The REU project will involve operation of a filter transmission measuring instrument to characterize filters and the use of straightforward analysis software to interpret the results
  • Keith Riles - Triangulation of Seismic Disturbances at the LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatories

    Gravitational waves emitted by black holes and neutron stars are likely to be
    discovered by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory)
    within the next five years. An important source of noise in searches for gravitational
    waves from astrophysical sources is ordinary terrestrial seismic motion that shakes
    the ground upon which the LIGO optical systems are supported. This project entails
    using real-time data collected from several seismometers spaced several kilometers
    apart at the Washington and Louisiana observatories to triangulate the sources of
    both narrowband and transient seismic disturbances (including distant earthquakes)
    and automatically report those disturbances on web pages to be viewed by LIGO
    scientists and control room operators.

  • Hui Deng - We investigate quantum phenomena on small and large scales, from
    nano-meter size single photon emitters to collective quantum states of
    microns to millimeters in size, all on semiconductor platforms. The
    REU student will work with 1-2 graduates to develop experiments to
    characterize the quantum phenomena, collect data and analyze the
    results. Through the project, the REU student will be  be familiarized
    with quantum optics, semiconductor physics, various laser spectroscopy
    and lab-automation. He or she will be trained on diverse optics lab
    techniques, data processing and modeling methods and critical