Undergraduate Research

Participating in research is a great way for students to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to real life problems. Research will also allow students to explore specific areas of physics including: biophysics, nanoscience and materials physics, cosmology, particle and astrophysics.

Get started

Students may conduct research at any point during their academic career, provided they meet individual research group standards. Follow the steps below to get started.

Step 1: Determine what area you would like to work in

The Department of Physics has four main research areas:

  • Biophysics and Biological Physics - Studies the underlying principles involved in the machinery of living things from the molecular to the cellular level as we search for unifying themes both within and between organisms. 

  • Cosmology, Particle and Astrophysics - As leaders in this area, we are researching particle physics universe to present day observables, and to understand the transition from linear physics to the non-linear regime during the formation of structures through observational techniques.

  • Nanoscience and Materials Physics - At the nanometer length scale, materials and structures behave differently, which offers exciting opportunities for scientific discoveries and technological advances. We use the tools of physics to create, probe, and understand new materials and atomic-size structures that will enable future technological breakthroughs.

  • Physics and Society - Physics interacts with society in many important ways. Within the university, the physics department teaches many undergraduate classes to help prepare future engineers and other scientists for their future careers. 

Alternatively, you may seek research opportunities within related units:

Step 2: Explore faculty directory

Faculty by research area:

Faculty by initiative:

Step 3: Start the conversation

After you have found your area of interest send an email to corresponding faculty to set-up a meeting or utilize our Undergraduate Research Openings button above. Get helpful tips on sites like WebGuru to prepare yourself for meeting with potential research advisors.

When communicating with faculty, please remember to include the following:

  1. Your name
  2. Current Year (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior)
  3. Skills (C++, Python, Excel, etc...)
  4. The last math and physics course(s) you have taken, or include an unofficial transcript

Be mindful of the structure of your email, always include a greeting (Hello Dr/Professor X) and closing (Sincerely, John Doe). 

Obtaining Research Credit

Students who would like to obtain credit for conducting research have the following options:

PHY 495 Project Research - For students who are obtaining a bachelors in physics or biophysics and conducting research with a professor within the Department of Physics.  

PHY 499 Individualized Instruction - Geared toward students who would like a curriculum tailored to their interests. Students who take PHY 499 may be assigned topic specific readings or relevant program applications. 

Steps to enroll in PHY 495 or PHY 499
  1. Secure a faculty advisor that will assign you research projects (PHY 495) or independent study (PHY 499)
  2. Discuss with your faculty advisor how many hours you will be working each week. The credit requirements listed below are based on a Fall/Spring 15 week semester.
    1. 1 credit = 4 hours/week 
    2. 2 credits = 8 hours/week 
    3. 3 credits = 12 hours/week 
  3. With your faculty advisor create learning goals and end project expectations.
  4. Complete the Undergraduate Research/Individualized Study Reporting Form 

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

The National Science Foundation provides funding for various research opportunities for undergraduates through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program. Host institutions will provide students the opportunity to engage in active research. Participating in a REU project is a great way to not only gain research experience, but also learn what type of research is being conducted outside of ASU. Additionally, they afford students the opportunity to build lasting connections. 

Stipends, housing and travel arrangements may be provided to participants. Those participating in an NSF funded REU must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States. 

Physics and related REU sites:

Physics Engineering  Materials  Computer and Information Science and Engineering  Chemistry

Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium

Requirements: 

Presentation

8-minute Slide & Audio Presentation
Please submit a recorded copy of your presentation - with narration and slides - in video format. You may use any presentation software, such as PowerPoint and Google Slides. Using a webcam to record your own image is optional. Your presentation can discuss the purpose of your study, background information, and data, research questions, methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations or next steps. 

Biography

Please submit a brief biography to introduce yourself to the Symposium judges and attendees, and include a high-resolution photo. 

Learn More 

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

If you are interested in one of the opportunities listed below, complete the interest form. Your request will be sent to faculty to review. You may need to sign-in to view the table.  

Available Research

Faculty Research Availability

Faculty Name Type Research Area Research Title Research/Project Short Description Desired Skills (if available to undergrads) Type of Position (if available to undergrads)
Chao Wang Experimental Biological and Soft Matter Physics, Nanoscience and Materials Physics Sapphire-supported N… This research is to fill the knowledge gap in nanopore sensing research by creating a significantly improved nanopore sensor platform that integrates low-optical background membranes (titanium oxide and 2D materials) on low-capacitance and hence low-electrical-noise sapphire. The research team will fabricate small membranes on sapphire, establish high-throughput manufacturing methods for both membrane formation and nanopore drilling, perform single-molecule DNA and protein translocation, study the DNA-protein binding , and analyze the data for biomarker detection. The proposed sensor platform has a number of key features to support the development of a wide variety of emerging biomolecular diagnostic technologies. First, the creation of ultrasmall (<10 μm) dielectric membranes on insulating sapphire eliminates substrate conductance, and drastically minimizes the chip capacitance to a few picoFarads even for high-dielectric-constant and ultrathin (<5 nm) membranes , thus significantly reducing the background high-frequency electrical noise and markedly improving high-bandwidth sensing. Further, both membrane formation and nanopore drilling will be achieved by high-throughput manufacturing methods, i.e. wafer-scale and batch-processing compatible sapphire etching and direct laser drilling, thus enabling low-cost and repeatable production. The scalably manufactured, low-noise, high-sensitivity nanopores will facilitate high-resolution gene identification and quantitation of their methylation status in a single measurement and at a greatly reduced cost.
This project is currently by NSF grants 2020464 and 2027215.
The students are expected to participate in device fabrication, DNA molecular design, nanopore signal collection, and data analysis.
Data analysis, signal collection, physical modeling (optional). Volunteer
Chao Wang Experimental Biological and Soft Matter Physics, Nanoscience and Materials Physics Photochemically Indu… Prevalent additive metal manufacturing mainly relies on thermal or laser assisted metal fusion or ink-jet printing of metal powders and nanoparticles, and has serious limitations, including large feature sizes, rough surfaces, high optical/electrical loss, and incompatibility with soft materials. This research will fill this knowledge gap by exploring a new solution-based photochemically-induced polymer-assisted deposition process to allow scalable production of metal microstructures. The research team will introduce a three-dimensional molecular precursor, consisting of an interlaid network of polymers, metal salt, and reductants, that can turn into continuous metal films and structures upon ultraviolet illumination. The research team will build a model to study the fundamental chemical and physical aspects of the growth mechanism, design a series of experiments to verify the model, explore the fundamental limits of the critical dimensions of the printed structures, combine theoretical and experimental studies, and characterize the structural, optical, and electrical performance of the printed films.
The project is currently supported by NSF 1947753.
In this project, we will explore the technology to create nanophotonic structures for color printing and biosensing.
hands-on experience (preferred), polymer chemistry (ideally), knowledge of basic optics Volunteer
Maxim Sukharev Theoretical Nanoscience and Materials Physics Quantum optics at th… Various projects for undergraduate students related to light propagation and interaction with matter at various interfaces. The primary subject of interest are optical properties of molecular systems in various optical environments such as optical cavities. The research efforts are funded by DOD and are of great interest to various experimental groups. We are extensively collaborating with Emory, UMBC, Tel Aviv University, University of Bordeaux, Bar-Ilan University, University of Pennsylvania. More about our research is at sukharev.faculty.asu.edu - interested students should send an email of interest to Prof. Maxim Sukharev at maxim.sukharev@asu.edu

Possible hourly paid aid is also available depending on students' skills.
preferably knowledge of quantum mechanics and electromagnetism, some programming skills Credit, Paid, Volunteer
Samuel Teitelbaum Experimental Nanoscience and Materials Physics Coherent X-ray scatt… How does an ordered state like a crystal “choose” its orientation (e.g. crystal axes) out of an isotropic system like a liquid or glass? This is one of the key questions in condensed matter physics, and yet is tricky to address directly, because the spontaneous fluctuations that give rise to these ordering events are not usually reproducible. We are trying to experimentally access these events, or understand them if they are not obviously visible in real-time.

One system were this might be possible is where the “atoms” are not atoms at all, but nanoparticles of heavy elements like gold and lead sulfide. We are interested in forming “strongly coupled superlattices” of these materials. Much in the same way that atoms arrange themselves in a crystal, nanocryatals can arrange themselves in a lattice (thus a crystal of crystals, or “superlattice”. The “strong coupling” comes about if the material connecting the nanocrystals is conductive enough that the nanocrystals can exchange electrons, forming delocalized orbitals and enabling conductivity. These superlattices are promising for next-generation electronics, energy harvesting, and more, because the properties of the “crystal” can be tuned by the size, shape, and coupling strength of the nanocrystals in ways not possible with traditional crystals. However, forming these materials remains a challenge, and we need to understand more about how these superlattices form, and how the interaction between individual nanoparticles (i.e. the effective potential) gives rise to an ordered state in order to unleash the potential of these materials.

To get more insight into the mechanism of superlattice formation, we use a variety of x-ray techniques, such as small angle scattering and x-ray correlation spectroscopy to investigate how the crystals grow, what defects are present in fully formed crystals (and how they anneal away), and where we lie on the phase diagram to extend this process to more diverse systems. This project will involve analysis of beamline data from beamlines like LCLS, NSLS-II, and SSRL, as well as preparation and proposal writing for upcoming experiments.
Some experience programming in Python, MATLAB, and wave mechanics. Experience with UNIX shell scripting is desired but not required. Paid
Alexandra Ros Experimental Biological and Soft Matter Physics, Nanoscience and Materials Physics Exploiting novel bio… The Ros lab is interested in exploiting the microenvironment to develop novel migration mechanisms for bioanalytes (https://biodesign.asu.edu/alexandra-ros). We employ tailored mirofluidic devices to induce migration mechanisms that can otherwise not be accomplished in the macro world. In most cases, we combine a suitable geometry of the micro devices with electrical potentials and analyte flows to induce selectivity between bioanalytes such as differently sized DNA strands or differently sized organelles. In this project, students will design microfluidic devices for separation applications and study the response of selected bioanalytes to applied forces. The novel separation approaches will help to improve disease diagnostics and fundamental studies of disease origin. This is an interdisciplinary project ideally suited for students with a broad interest including biophysics, engineering and chemistry. Curiosity for the project, ideally some lab experience in either biological sample handling or microfabrication. Credit, Volunteer
Jeff Yarger Experimental Biological and Soft Matter Physics, Nanoscience and Materials Physics Polyamorphism and Re… Fluid polyamorphism, the existence of two distinct amorphous structures in a single-component condensed fluid, is a surprisingly ubiquitous, yet poorly understood, phenomenon. It is either found or predicted for helium, sulfur, carbon, phosphorous, silicon, cerium, tin tetraiodide, tellurium, and hydrogen. This phenomenon is also hypothesized for deeply supercooled water, presumably located a few degrees below the empirical limit of homogeneous ice formation. Prof. Yarger’s research group along with collaborators (Princeton University and University of Maryland) are developing and verifying a generic phenomenological approach to describe polyamorphism in a single-component fluid, either in the presence (supercooled water, silicon, silica, etc.) or absence (helium, sulfur, phosphorous) of fluid-fluid phase separation. The concept underlying polyamorphism phenomenology is equilibrium interconversion between alternative molecular or supramolecular structures. The phenomenology will be verified by simulations of molecular models of various systems exhibiting fluid polyamorphism and by experiments (calorimetry, optical microscopy, DLS, IR and Raman spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy.) Familiarity with modern data science techniques and applications associated with data and error analysis (e.g, Jupyter, Julia, Python, R, Matlab, Mathematica, Fourier Analysis, PCA). Credit, Paid
Robert Kaindl Experimental Nanoscience and Materials Physics Broadband Ultrafast… Our research explores fundamental and applied physical phenomena in correlated and nanoscale quantum materials using advanced ultrafast tools. Femtosecond light pulses provide unique opportunities to perturbatively resolve fast dynamics and interactions in these materials, and they can drive materials into new transient or metastable regimes via intense excitation. At present we are developing a new laboratory for tailored driving and detection of quantum and collective excitations using broadband terahertz, mid-IR, and visible light pulses as well as probing of electronic structure dynamics via time- and angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (trARPES).
This effort provides many project opportunities, spanning initially the range from literature research and simulations, fabrication and characterization of 2D and correlated samples, to the design and development of nonlinear optical setups in the terahertz, mid-IR, and extreme-UV regimes. Moreover, our research is closely aligned with the ASU CXFEL program making possible laser-science projects connected to the femtosecond X-ray source and pump-probe setup that is currently under commissioning. At a later stage, the student can also get involved with the first time-resolved THz/mid-IR and ARPES experiments in our group to investigate the dynamics of quasi-particles and order parameters as well the properties of light-induced phases in two-dimensional, topological, and superconducting materials.
Interest in condensed matter physics, optics/lasers, programming, and data analysis. Prior experience in any of these areas is useful but not required.
Quan Qing Experimental Biological and Soft Matter Physics, Nanoscience and Materials Physics DNA manipulation and… DNA molecules carry the key information of cells. Nanopore sequencing represents the most promising direction for rapid single-molecule level sequencing techniques, which drives the advancements in accurate and affordable gene analysis to bring paradigm shifts in biology and health care, including, for example, genomic studies, cancer research and personalized medicine. Nanopore sensing requires no complex labeling or DNA amplification, which makes it possible to work with low copy numbers of molecules, and the long read length could substantially help the alignment and assembly of highly repetitive DNAs, which have been a persistent challenge for existing high-throughput sequencing techniques. In this project, we are going to explore a new strategy to construct nanopore device integrated with a pair of quantum tunneling electrodes such that for every DNA molecule that moves through the nanopore, a tunneling signal can be detected for high resolution sequencing. We are going to use 3D printing, CNC machining, and customized electronics to construct a nanofluidic platform that can be used to deliver different biological samples to a nanopore chip for single-molecule detection and sequencing. 3D modeling, programming with labview, data analysis using matlab or python Volunteer

Interest Form