Program details:

  • Ten weeks
  • Stipend $6,000
  • Travel, housing, meals provided

Application deadline:
February 5 - March 4
(offers made on a rolling basis during this window).

Program dates:
May 30 - Aug 5



Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Summer 2022

Vanderbilt University
Physics & Astronomy

Research Projects: Astrophysics

Computational Simulations of Black Hole Formation
(Prof. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann)

We will use high resolution N-body simulations and numerical models to understand how black holes grow within galaxies. Projects for REU students will include calculating the gravitational wave signal from merging supermassive black holes, modeling black holes in triaxial galaxies, and studying the effect of isolation on black hole growth.

Star Formation and Extrasolar Planets
(Prof. Keivan Stassun)

The Stassun group is conducting observational studies to understand the birth of stars and to search for planets around other stars. The star formation research includes time-series photometric studies of young stars in a variety of star-forming regions in order to characterize the evolution of the stars' angular momenta and also to search for eclipsing binary stars with which to measure the fundamental properties of newly formed stars. The exoplanets research includes searches for signals of "transiting" planets through the examination of data streaming from Vanderbilt's Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) in South Africa as well as radial-velocity data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey's APOGEE project. An observing run in Chile is possible. Other projects involve Vanderbilt's participation in the upcoming NASA TESS mission.

Data Visualization and Discovery: Understanding the Cognitive Basis of Scientific Insight in Astronomy
(Prof. Maithilee Kunda and Prof. Keivan Stassun)
In this project, we are investigating exploratory data visualization in astronomy: how astronomers work through big data and visualization tools to find interesting new patterns. Our goal is to understand how humans explore visual encoded data until the “aha” moment happens. This project is part of a current collaboration with Prof. Keivan Stassun, in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt, whose team recently made a “visually inspired” discovery about stellar flicker that was published in Nature (

Quasars and Supermassive Black Hole Binaries
(Prof. Jessie Runnoe)

The Runnoe group is conducting observational studies of growing supermassive black holes visible as quasars and electromagnetic searches for supermassive black hole binaries. Projects available for REU students include analyzing Sloan Digital Sky Survey data to understand quasar central engines and testing the nature of supermassive black hole binary candidates.




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