Student research at WWU

The Physics Department at WWU encourages majors to participate in an REU program at an off-campus location during the summer between their junior and senior years.
Learn more about the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program >

Summer Research at WWU: 2022

This summer we had only one student do a summer REU.  Here is Cameron’s report on his research:

"This summer, I worked as an REU fellow at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, SD, aiding in LUX-ZEPLIN's (LZ's) material assay campaign. The LZ experiment is a collaboration of physicists, engineers, and chemists searching for dark matter using a 7-tonne tank of liquid xenon. This dark matter detector requires a low-background environment, so the experiment is conducted a mile underground to shield it from cosmic rays. Additionally, it requires exceptionally radio-pure building materials. 

My team was responsible for determining concentrations of radioactive isotopes (U, Th, and K) within these potential building materials using gamma-ray spectroscopy. We operated four high-purity germanium crystal detectors underground and built SOLO, a fifth detector, on the Black Hills State University campus. I was responsible for assembling SOLO's electronics and housing, maintaining a clean and orderly laboratory, and developing a LabVIEW program to control the flow of liquid nitrogen within the detector chamber.

On July 7th, 2022, the LZ team released their first results, announcing that LZ is currently the most sensitive dark matter detector on earth. I hope that the LZ team will be the first to detect a dark matter particle—honored to have been part of a team making significant strides toward achieving a greater understanding of our physical world and universe."

Summer Research at WWU: 2021

Stefan spent the summer here at Walla Walla University working on the Raman Spectrometer project. We have two commercial Raman Spectrometers that are used heavily in our Nanotechnology labs. The goal of this research project is to develop a working system that is more open to upgrades.

For several years we have had students working on the hardware aspects of the project such as 3d printing mechanical parts, soldering electronic components together, etc. Stefan also is pursing a computer engineering degree so he was able to bring a valuable software focus to the project.

The main controller is a Raspberry Pi computer that communicates with three Arduino boards. These board each control an aspect of the experiment. Stefan focused on building a new communications protocol between the boards to modernize the original code from 2014.

Miranda spent the summer at the University of Michigan. The project she participated in was focused on the semiconductor GaAs. The group uses a laser to measure and manipulate the electron spins. Her specific role was to rewrite sections of the control code dealing with data storage. The University of Michigan program runs on the semester schedule and we are grateful to them for allowing Miranda to join the program a few days late after finishing her finals here.