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: Condensed Matter, Atomic, Molecular, Optical, and Nano Physics

Nonlinear photonics in quantum materials
(Prof. Richard Haglund)
In the Haglund group, the REU student can investigate ultrafast optical coupling, optical switching and optical harmonic generation either in nanostructures comprising thin sheets of metal and  semiconductor nanoparticles separated by a transparent nanometer-thick spacer layer or in thin-film structures of vanadium dioxide, a quantum material that makes a phase transition from insulating to metallic when optically excited. Depending on the nonlinear optical effect to be studied (e.g., harmonic generation, nonlinear refraction), model nanostructured materials are prepared using chemical synthesis, sputter deposition or atomic-layer deposition. The REU student will be trained in clean-room technology; fabrication of nano- and microstructures; thin-film deposition; materials characterization by atomic-force, scanning near-field optical and scanning-electron microscopies; and time-resolved optical spectroscopy and microscopy using lasers emitting at wavelengths from the visible to the near-infrared with pulse durations as short as 20 fs.

Computational Materials Physics and Nanoscience
(Prof. Sokrates Pantelides, Prof. Kalman Varga)

Members of Pantelides' group carry out first-principles density-functional-theory (DFT) calculations of electronic and structural properties of materials and nanostructures. An assortment of computer codes are available that REU students can easily learn how to run. As an entry point, a student reproduces some well-known results such as energy bands for crystalline Si and graphene, determination of the lattice constant of a material or the formation energy of a defect like a vacancy, and so on. The student gets to appreciate the quantum mechanics that underlie the calculations. Once comfortable with the codes, the student will be given a real problem that has a good likelihood for either completion or at least significant progress within the available time, ultimately leading to a paper published in a technical journal. A problem relating to two dimensional materials is likely. There are many options and the determination will be made at the time the student is accepted to participate. As an example, a previous undergraduate student tackled the problem of calculating energy barriers for the transport of different small molecules like H2 or H2 through multivacancies in graphene (atomic-scale nanopores in a single-atom-thick membrane), while another recent undergraduate student performed calculations of substitutional impurities in a two-dimensional material to design a novel ferroelectric (he was able to learn quickly the fundamentals of ferroelectricity). The main activity of Kalman Varga's group is computational modeling and simulation of electronic and transport properties of nanostructures interacting with short strong laser pulses. The group is interested in time-dependent electron dynamics including Coulomb explosion, Petahertz electronics, attochemistry, time dependent band structure engineering, and ultrafast energy transfer processes. The group is also actively working on studying electron transport processes in nanostructures using novel computational tools. Undergraduate students interested in computational physics, modelling, state of art simulations are encouraged to joint the group.

Ultra-Fast Laser Studies of Surfaces and Interfaces
(Prof. Norman Tolk)
The Tolk group studies ultra-fast tunable laser induced electronic and vibrational excitation at surfaces and interfaces. REU students will have the opportunity to be actively engaged in one or more of the following research thrusts: (A) Non-thermal resonant photodesorption of hydrogen from silicon and diamond crystal surfaces, using the Vanderbilt Free-Electron Laser. This novel and unanticipated effect was reported in the May 2006 issue of the magazine Science. This research effort is not only fundamental but also has very exciting possible applications including low-temperature growth of silicon and diamond crystals, hydrogen storage and room temperature refining. (B) Spin Dynamics of Ultra-Fast Laser Photoinduced Magnetization in Expitaxial GaMnAs. We have initiated a study of the dynamics of photoinduced magnetization in ferromagnetic Ga1-xMnxAs (x=0.05) by time-resolved polar Kerr rotation over a wide range of temperatures. Measured spin relaxation times were found to vary from tens to hundreds of picoseconds. The GaMnAs magnetic semiconductor system has received considerable attention in recent years because it is anticipated that it will play a major role in developing future spin-based devices. (C) Near-bandgap wavelength-dependent studies of long-lived traveling coherent longitudinal acoustic phonon oscillations in GaSb/GaAs systems. The oscillations arise from a photo-generated coherent longitudinal acoustic phonon wave, which travels from the top surface of GaSb across the interface into the GaAs substrate, thus providing information on the optical properties of the material as a function of time/depth. Wavelength-dependent studies of the oscillations near the bandgap of GaAs indicate strong correlations to the optical properties of GaAs.




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