Skip to main content
  • Home
  • Events
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Do an REU at the Center for KINETIC Plasma Physics

May 19 - July 26, 2021

The Center for KINETIC Plasma Physics is supporting a 10-week summer REU program allowing students to explore the exciting field of plasma physics, the study of the “fourth state of matter” making up the stars, space, and fusion reactors.

In this REU, students will work with in-house cutting-edge laboratory experiments, observations from NASA satellites, and simulation data from some of the nation’s most powerful supercomputers. Students will be associated with a specific research project, where they will work closely with their faculty research mentor and other researchers.

Selected students will receive $6,000 stipend, $300 in travel expenses, meals and lodging.

For full consideration, please submit your application by February 15, 2021.

See this flyer about the REU program.

What areas of research are included?

Research projects will focus on studies of eruptive instabilities in plasmas, the Sun, and Earth's radiation belts. Projects include in-house cutting-edge laboratory experiments, observations from NASA satellites, and simulation data from some of the nation’s most powerful supercomputers.

Specific projects are:

  • Laboratory Plasma Experiments (Supervisor: Prof. Earl Scime)

    Students will participate in research on the PHAse Space MApping (PHASMA) experiment. PHASMA is a new experimental plasma facility with advanced diagnostics for magnetic field, electric field, and particle measurements. The student will be assigned to work with one of the diagnostic teams for the summer and will be responsible for operating the diagnostic, performing measurements, and analyzing the results.

  • The Sun at Millimeter Wavelengths (Supervisor: Dr. Adam Kobelski)

    Due to the relatively small height of the chromosphere (of order 1000’s of km) through which the temperature and density change by many  orders of magnitude via a complex and dynamic layering, the solar chromosphere is one of the more difficult atmospheric layers of the Sun to observe and model. Recently, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) has become available for solar observations, providing a unique and robust linear thermometer of the solar chromosphere. In this project, one student will have the opportunity to utilize ALMA solar observations in conjunction with readily available support observations of different atmospheric layers (from instruments such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) to better understand the flow of energy through the chromosphere. The student will learn the basics of Python, data analysis, and solar plasma physics, which should result in a publication of the properties of the Sun at millimeter wavelengths. In later years, the project will also include observations from the up-and-coming 4m Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) which will observe the Sun from the near infrared to the near ultraviolet.
    The Sun in Millimeter Wavelengths from ALMA
  • Understanding the Mysterious Dropout of Radiation Belt Electrons (Supervisor: Prof. Weichao Tu)

    The energetic electron flux in Earth's outer radiation belt has been observed to drop by orders of magnitude on timescale of hours, which is called the electron ‘dropout’. Where do the electrons go? This is one of the most important outstanding questions in radiation belt studies. In this project, the student will have the opportunity to analyze energetic electron data from NOAA POES satellites at low altitude and NASA Van Allen Probes at high altitude to reveal the relative importance of electron precipitation loss to the atmosphere to the mysterious radiation belt dropout.
    Radiation Belt Dropouts

  • Cubesat Data Analysis (Supervisor: Prof. Earl Scime)

    Students will analyze data from a probe aboard the STF-1 spacecraft. STF-1 was built and launched through a NASA-WVU collaboration and was the first spacecraft designed and built in West Virginia. The summer research project will involve analyzing the data and comparing the measurements to those from spacecraft in similar orbits.

What is included in the REU Program?

  • Placement in a research group for your summer research project.
  • A two-day visit and scientific tour of the Green Bank Observatory (GBO). The GBO is the world’s largest steerable radio single dish and many research projects involve Green Bank Telescope data.
  • Research Poster Session: REU students will present their research at a poster session at the conclusion of the 10-week program. Students will gain an experience similar to that of an academic conference and to hone their skills discussing research with a diverse audience.
  • Attendance at a science conference: Students in the REU program will be supported to attend the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics (DPP) or the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting, where they will use these skills at a genuine scientific conference. This conference hosts thousands of plasma physicists, whose research interests are encompass the entire field.
  • Seminars and informational meetings: students will be exposed to a wide variety of topics related to working in STEM fields.
  • Workshops: Workshops will be provided to give guidance on professional preparation, public speaking, professional interactions, and scientific poster creation. Topics include Graduate School Roundtable, Career Building (resumes, interviewing, elevator speech), Prestigious Scholarships, and Creating an Effective Research Poster.
  • Team Building Activities: The state of West Virginia has numerous outdoor recreational opportunities (e.g., biking, hiking, rafting) within a short drive of WVU that make ideal excursions during the program.

Who should apply?

Applications will be accepted from rising sophomores through rising seniors, as well as rising freshmen with advanced (Honors or Advanced Placement) Physics and Astronomy coursework or those involved in the First 2 network. People from underrepresented groups in physics are encouraged to apply.

There is no citizenship requirement for REU participants. Qualified applicants will:

  1. Have a grade point average 2.8 or above in their STEM undergraduate coursework,
  2. Be majoring in physics or astronomy undergraduate degree programs (baccalaureate or associate and part-time or full-time), and
  3. Be rising freshmen through seniors.

When is the program?

May 19, 2021 – July 26, 2021

Where is the program?

West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV

Currently, the 2021 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is being planned as an onsite program. Due to the ongoing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the feasibility of holding an onsite program may change at any time. Please note that the 2021 REU may be shifted from onsite to virtual if, in WVU’s sole discretion, the state of the COVID-19 pandemic has not improved sufficiently for WVU to safely hold the program.

How to apply?

Each applicant will be required to submit:

  • an application, which includes personal, academic (institution, major, level, coursework), and voluntary demographic information, future career plans, a brief essay on your motivation for wanting to participate in the REU (including the project you are interested in working on, if applicable), and the email address of a science faculty member familiar with the your abilities/motivation who can write a letter of recommendation 
  • Undergraduate transcripts (unofficial is fine; send to the email address below)

For full consideration, please submit your application by February 15, 2021.


Prof. Paul Cassak