2019 Research Projects

Research Projects by Subject

Note:
Each research project will involve background reading for the interns provided by their mentors.
Each research project will involve a final presentation by the interns.


Interns are expected to work collaboratively on the same project and/or data set.
This may preclude rising seniors from submitting papers based on such projects to the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition.

Anthropology

Code Research Project Descriptions
ANT-01 Title:
Technology and Oral Story Collection of Indian Immigrants in the USA
Primary mentor: Dr Annapurna Pandey
Other mentors: Kati Greaney
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 4

Project description:
These days, one often hears that we human beings are primarily story tellers. We tell stories about ourselves as well as about others. What these stories tell us is the rich experience human beings have acquired in their life. The world in which we live in today is largely created by technology. The mentor and SIP interns will use various tools provided by technology in their digital story telling research. This project will encourage SIP interns to collect stories about the immigrant experience in the United States. For the last three decades the mentor has been working on the Indian diaspora in the Greater Bay Area, California. The mentor has made two films, “Homeland in the Heart” and “Life Giving Ceremony of Jagannath” documenting the involvement of Odia people (people from the state of Odisha) in building a community and developing a sense of belonging to the United States. The mentor would like to broaden the scope of this research by incorporating experiences of other Indian immigrants.


Tasks:
This project will give an opportunity to the SIP interns to collect oral history material about the experiences of immigrant parents, grandparents, and their American-born children. The material will include streaming audio and written transcripts accessible online in digital formats. The mentor and SIP interns will use various available technology tools. The mentor’s aim in this project is to collect interviews of Indian immigrants in the USA. The SIP interns will interview various members of the Indian community and collect their experiences in this country compared to their experience in their homeland that they have left behind. These interviews are a unique source of contemporary history through the experiences of the immigrants. Past studies have shown that this kind of research has revealing consequences for both the researchers as well as the subjects of their research. The tentative plan is for the SIP interns to spend weeks 3–6 doing off-campus field work in various South Bay locations and to spend the remaining weeks working on the UCSC campus.


Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Statistical data analysis; field work

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON OFF ON ON REM OFF REM ON

Astronomy & Astrophysics

Code Research Project Descriptions
AST-01 Title:
What Happens Around Supermassive Black Holes
Primary mentor: Dr Martin Gaskell
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 3

Project description:
Astronomers now believe that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole in its center. Because of the tremendous energy released as the black hole grows by swallowing gas, these black holes can be readily detected as so-called “active galactic nuclei” (AGNs) back to very early times in the Universe. The details of how supermassive black holes form and grow and how this is related to the formation of normal galaxies is one of the central mysteries of contemporary astrophysics. The mentor’s research group is analyzing spectra and spectral variability to try to understand how AGNs produce the intense radiation seen, what the structure of material around the black hole is like, and how supermassive black holes grow.


Tasks:
SIP intern involvement in the project will consist of analyzing multi-wavelength spectral observations of relatively nearby actively accreting supermassive black holes to try to understand the emissions and how the black holes grow. This work will involve compiling data sets, applying corrections, making statistical estimates of parameters, and comparing the results with theoretical models of processes going on around black holes.


URL: http://campusdirectory.ucsc.edu/cd_detail?uid=mgaskell

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Intern MUST have Microsoft EXCEL on their computer (NOT Google Sheets). Must have a mouse with their computer.
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON ON ON ON ON REM ON ON

Code Research Project Descriptions
AST-02 Title:
Cosmological Galaxy Simulation Data Post-Processing
Primary mentor: Clayton Strawn
Faculty advisor: Prof. Joel Primack
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description:
Cosmological galaxy simulations have become increasingly meaningful in the last few decades, and mock "observational" tests of simulations can set meaningful constraints on how accurately the physical assumptions built into the simulation emulate the real Universe. In this project, the mentor intends to use mock quasar/galaxy absorption spectra created with the new software TRIDENT to emulate observations of the region directly outside of galaxies proper but within their dark matter halo, the circumgalactic medium (CGM). The CGM is relatively difficult to observe, because gas is not dense enough to form stars, and therefore this region is only detected in absorption, so only by simulating this observed quantity can we evaluate the simulation’s CGM.


Tasks:
The plan is for the SIP interns to help organize and collect data on these mock absorption spectra. This will involve creating useful interface methods between spectrum images and observational analysis methods, which have before always been applied only to observed spectra rather than simulated ones. The interns will become familiar with contributing to open-source software, as well as writing/testing/debugging well-documented code for science use. (The URL below is not strictly made by the mentor’s research group and collaborators, but is a useful introductory page to look at.)


URL: http://trident-project.org

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Computer programming
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis

Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Mentor’s availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON OFF ON


Local and out-of-area applicants will be considered for this project.

Code Research Project Descriptions
AST-03 Title:
Photometric Variability in the NGVS: Milky Way Halo RR Lyrae, Tidal Disruption Events in Star Clusters, and Distant Quasars
Primary mentor: Yuting Feng
Faculty advisor: Prof. Raja GuhaThakurta
Other mentors: Eric Peng, Jared Geiselhart
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 3

Project description:
Despite its static appearance at first glance, the Universe is constantly changing. Monitoring the sky for these changes is time-consuming, but doing so allows us to identify unique celestial phenomena. Most images taken of the sky are not suitable for studying the “time-domain” because they are not taken with an appropriate spacing in time. The Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey (NGVS), a deep, multi-color imaging survey of the closest cluster of galaxies, adopted an observing strategy that spaced observations for a given field over a time period of hours to years. While not designed for time-domain studies, this observing strategy allows us to look for things in the sky that change in brightness. This project will focus on looking for three different types of variability, each with its own separate science question, although the technical aspects of the three are nearly identical. The three types are: (1) RR Lyrae variable stars in the outskirts of our Milky Way galaxy, excellent probes of our Galaxy’s assembly history via the cannibalism of smaller galaxies, (2) tidal disruption events of stars in globular clusters by their central intermediate mass black holes, and (3) variability of distant quasars caused by stochastic accretion of material onto the supermassive black holes that power them.


Tasks:
The SIP interns will use deep time series imaging of the sky to identify variable stars that could be RR Lyrae or quasars, using a set of known RR Lyrae and known quasars as training sets. They will first use