2023 Pi2 Summer Scholar Cohort Selected

Pi2 students working in a laser lab.
May 15, 2023

Berkeley Physics is proud to announce the Physics Innovators Initiative (Pi2) Scholars for Summer, 2023

These undergraduates will have the opportunity to do research, learn to design the tools that enable such research, develop their scientific independence, and realize their potential as physicists. Each Pi2 scholar will work closely with dedicated graduate student and/or postdoc mentors on their projects. Pi2 Scholars will also participate in a number of activities with their cohorts which could include lectures, roundtable discussions, and hiking excursions. Final projects will require a written report and a poster presentation open to the whole department at the end of the summer. Meet our Pi2 Summer Scholars and their mentors below!

Lichuan Xu and mentors Chang Liu and Adrian van Kan 

Photos of Rainer Reczek with mentors Koh Yamakawa and Ryan Day

Rare transitions in anisotropic quasi-two-dimensional turbulence

The largest scales of turbulent flows are at the heart of many important geophysical processes: climate, meteorology, ocean dynamics and the Earth’s magnetic field. Earth is affected on a very large range of time scales, up to millennia, by the structure and variability of these flows. We propose to study rare transitions between large-scale hurricane-like vortices and unidirectional jets within two-dimensional and quasi-two-dimensional turbulence in an an-isotropic domain. The results of this project are relevant to geophysical fluid flows, and will provide a better fundamental understanding of non-equilibrium phase transitions in anisotropic turbulence. 

Lichuan will work as part of the Edgar Knobloch group and will be mentored by postdocs Chang Liu and Andrian van Kan.

Ayushmaan Aggarwal and mentor Guang Yang 

Photo of Ayushmaan Aggarwal and Mentor Guang Yang

Test and calibration of the readout system for a novel neutrino detector

Neutrinos are the most abundant particles in the universe. A thorough understanding of their properties can shed light on major mysteries in the universe such as the matter-antimatter asymmetry. Next-generation neutrino experiments require high-precision response and large detector masses. A Water-based Liquid Scintillator (WbLS) detector can be scaled to large sizes while at the same time offering enhanced particle identification capabilities. A flagship 4-ton technology demonstrator, Eos, is being built at Berkeley. Eos offers sufficient size and a high level of instrumentation for full event reconstruction using photon time-of-flight information. The electronics readout system is critical to achieving Eos' goal of studying the impact of detector configuration on performance. Seventeen digitizer boards with 16 channels in each will be used for the experiment. The student will help optimize, calibrate, and analyze all the data channels, and eventually, deliver the system to Eos. Through the work, the student will be able to acquire both hardware and software experience and familiarize themselves with the environment in a particle physics collaboration.

Ayushmaan will work as part of the Gabriel Orebi Gann group and will be mentored by postdoc Guang Yang.

Jazmin Sandhu and mentor Brandon Schlomann

Photos of Jazmin Sandhu and Mentor Brandon Schlomann

Traveling waves of immune response in tissues

Immune responses in tissues require the coordinated action of many cells, but how this coordination happens across space is poorly understood. One potential mechanism for quickly launching coordinated responses is positive feedback between neighboring cells, which is predicted to create traveling waves of gene expression. The student will use our experimental methods for live imaging of fruit fly larvae to study the spatiotemporal patterning of immune response in a pathway with positive feedback and test for the existence of traveling waves. They will also help develop mathematical models of spatial immune responses that can be tested with genetic, chemical, and microbial perturbations.

Jazmin will work as part of the Hernan Garcia group and will be mentored by Postdoc Brandon Schlomann.

Nadia Sun and mentor Jack Roth

Photos of Nadia Sun and Mentor Jack Roth

Measurement of the fine-structure constant via atom interferometry

The fine structure constant is a parameter of the Standard Model which describes the strength of electromagnetic interactions. In the Mueller group, we are making an ultra precise measurement of the fine structure constant with atom interferometry. Using cold atoms exposed to laser light in an atomic fountain, we can create “atom beamsplitters”, which allow us to construct an interferometer that uses the wave-like properties of ordinary matter instead of the wave-light properties of light. Such a measurement requires a precise understanding of the lasers used in the experiment as well as systematic effects that can arise from imperfections in the experiment. Potential projects for prospective students include development of new stable laser systems, design and implementation of laser frequency stabilization tools, analysis of systematic effects, and more. Students would learn the skills required to work with optics in an atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) lab, as well as general AMO physics and atom interferometry.

Nadia will work as part of the Holger Mueller group and will be mentored by graduate student Jack Roth.

Catherine Xu and mentors Hossein Taginejad and Josue Rodriguez

Photos of Catherine Xu and Mentor Hossein Taginejad/Josue Rodriguez

Spin transport in novel magnetic platforms

Collective spin excitations are one of the most efficient ways to carry information and energy across vast distances in materials, but it is grossly underutilized in complex magnetic systems. Moreover, it provides a means to characterize the underlying excitations in such systems, and specifically answer whether spin remains a good quantum number. This project will be to employ state-of-the-art nanofabrication techniques to complex systems to inject, transport and detect spin transport.

Catherine will work as part of the James Analytis group and will be mentored by graduate student Josue Rodriguez and postdoc Hossein Taginejad.

Sanjit Shirol and mentors Luke Pritchard Cairns and Yuanqi Lyu

Photos of Sanjit Shirol and mentosr Luke Pritchard Cairns, Yuanqi Lyu

Thermal Hall effect in topological spin liquids

Quantum spin liquids are a state of matter characterized by many-body entanglement. They arise in frustrated magnetic systems and are thought to be connected to high temperature superconductivity. We are developing capabilities to measure the thermal Hall effect at dilution fridge temperatures (<10mK) to detect the presence of novel edge states that do not carry spin or charge, but do carry energy. The properties of such edge states can help classify the nature of the spin liquid and its topological class.

Sanjit will work as part of the James Analytis group and will be mentored by graduate student Yuanqi Lyu and postdoc Luke Pritchard Cairns.

Jyotsna Ravi and mentor Boryana Hadzhiyska

Photos of Jyotsna Ravi and Mentor Boryana Hadzhiyska

Cosmology before noon

We are developing the next-generation of galaxy redshift surveys to probe cosmology and fundamental physics. These will target the high-redshift Universe to provide the cleanest and lowest-noise measurements of large-scale structure observables all the way to the Big Bang. The student will use the largest, full-physics, cosmological simulation ever run to conduct a timely analysis of the simulated high-redshift galaxy populations, which will be highly informative in designing the next-generation experiments.

Jyotsna will work as part of the Martin White group and will be mentored by postdoc Boryana Hadzhiyska.

Rose Hinson and mentor Joe DeRose

Photos of Rose Hinson and Mentor Joe DeRose

Redshift calibration for next-generation surveys

Measurements of weak gravitational lensing from deep photometric galaxy surveys are a promising avenue to constrain fundamental physics. One of the main uncertainties in the constraints coming from galaxy weak lensing is misestimation of galaxy redshifts in photometric surveys. These surveys will overlap significantly with current and next generation spectroscopic galaxy surveys, and so an interesting question is what improvements are available in weak lensing constraints by exploiting the overlap of photometric and spectroscopic galaxy surveys. The student will use state of the art simulations of spectroscopic and photometric surveys to explore synergies between the two that can be exploited to mitigate systematic errors in both types of surveys.

Rose will work as part of the Martin White group and will be mentored by postdoc Joe DeRose.

Mathi Raja and mentor Bart Andrews

Photos of Mathi Raja and Mentor Bart Andrews

Quantum geometry and the fractional quantum Hall effect

The stability of fractional quantum Hall states has been an active area of research for over 40 years, due to the surprising details that it can reveal about strongly-correlated quantum many-body systems, its numerical challenges, as well as the potential for topological quantum computation. Along with band dispersion and topology, quantum geometry is one of the key properties determining the stability of fractional quantum Hall states on lattices. In this project, a student will analyze the stability of fractional quantum Hall states in a recently-proposed lattice model, which can isolate the effects of different components of quantum geometry.

Mathi will work as part of the Mike Zaletel group and will be mentored by postdoc Bart Andrews.

Ani Khemani and mentor Vivian Wall

Ani Khemani and Mentor Vivian Wall

In situ small angle X-ray scattering of nanocrystal superlattice self-assembly

Ordered arrays, or superlattices, of semiconductor nanocrystals are appealing candidates for next-generation functional materials due to their tunable nature and bottom-up fabrication. We are interested in how the self-assembly of these superlattices can be controlled through photoexcitation to design materials with novel properties. Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is a useful technique for studying the structure of nanomaterials, and carrying out this measurement in situ, or as the self-assembly process is occurring, we will learn about how the structure changes as a function of time. The project will consist of measuring in situ SAXS of continuous, above-bandgap laser illumination on the self-assembly of semiconductor nanocrystal superlattices at a synchrotron radiation facility and of analyzing this data to study the effect.

Ani will work as part of the Naomi Ginsberg group and will be mentored by postdoc Vivian Wall.

Shreya Puranam and mentor Erin Hansen

Photo of Shreya Puranam and Mentor Erin Hansen

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) for improved energy reconstruction in CUORE

This project would apply machine learning models (specifically PCA) to improve energy reconstruction for the CUORE experiment. Sensitivity to 0νββ in the background dominated regime is limited by fluctuations in the background and signal energy resolution. Excellent energy resolution is critical for CUORE as it helps to more clearly distinguish 0νββ signals from background events. The current method of energy reconstruction assumes that noise is stationary and that signals from different energies have the same pulse shape, which we know is not true for the CUORE experiment. Taking into account these factors using PCA could lead to an improved model for energy reconstruction.

Shreya will work as part of the Yury Kolomensky group and will be mentored by postdoc Erin Hansen.

Joshua Bromley and mentor Junyi Shan

Photos of Joshua Bromley and Mentor Junyi Shan

Designing nonlinear microwave circuits for probing inhomogeneous materials

Linear microwave reflectometry with nanoscale tips has been widely applied to probe local variations in electrical properties of materials with sub-100 nm resolution. Measurements with nonlinear microwave probes, on the other hand, remain unexplored but are suitable to study voltage-dependent phenomena or complex systems such as superconductors, ferroelectrics, and magnets while offering better spatial resolution. The Pi2 Scholar will use basic circuit theory to understand nonlinear microwave reflection phenomena, such as harmonic generation and frequency intermodulation, and will use this knowledge to optimize the circuit design for an ongoing setup construction project.

Joshua will work as part of the Eric Ma group and will be mentored by postdoc Junyi Shan

Yara Bawazir and mentor Ruishi Qi

Photos of Yara Bawazir and Mentor Ruishi Qi

Exciton condensate in atomically thin heterostructures

Create in-direct excitons in atomically thin semiconductor heterostructures using electrostatic gating, and explore possible exciton Bose-Einstein Condensate states using optical spectroscopy.

Yara will work as part of the Feng Wang a group and will be mentored by graduate student Ruishi Qi

Rainer Reczek and mentors Koh Yamakawa and Ryan Day

Photos of Rainer Reczek and mentors Koh Yamakawa and Ryan Day

Correlated magnetism on the boundary of superconductivity

Correlated magnets are a class of materials where spin strongly interact, driving collective states that have novel excitations, including fractional quantum numbers and topological orders. In this project, you will synthesize new magnetic systems, tuning them chemically, structurally and electrically to find and ultimately control superconductivity.

Rainer will work as part of the James Analytis Group and will be mentored by graduate student Koh Yamakawa and postdoc Ryan Day

2023 PiSummer Scholar Reports

Back to the Pi2 Summer Scholar overview