Research Opportunites

How to Get Involved in Research

There are many ways to get involved in research. During the academic year you can sign up for research credit. During the summer you can apply for a paid position with the Ithaca College physics department. Another option is to apply for national and international research opportunities at universities and research laboratories. 

The best way to get involved in research at Ithaca College is to talk with the physics professors to find out if their current research projects look interesting to you or if they will support your own research ideas. You can learn about faculty research projects below. 

During the academic year you need to sign up for the research course PHYS-29900. Each professor's section of PHYS-29900 is listed after their names below, and you will need them to sign a class registration override form. We recommend that most students take only 0.5 credits of research. This translates into approximately 1.5 hours of work each week; most students find this time commitment easy to handle with all of their other responsibilities.

You must attend a seminar and apply for one of the paid, 10-week-long summer research projects at Ithaca College. The physics department has a seminar at the end of January where the physics faculty present their summer research opportunities. We expect students interested in paid summer research positions to attend this seminar (if you have a serious conflict let us know ahead of time and we'll accommodate your needs). After this seminar you will have a week to fill out a summer research preference form where you tell us you top three choices. We encourage you to talk more with the faculty you are interested in working with to get more details about their projects. 

You must submit your preference form by the deadline or you will not be considered for a paid summer research position. The physics faculty will meet shortly after the preference form deadline to associate students with projects as best we can and rank them. There are three ranks: students who are guaranteed positions over the summer, students who might get research positions depending on whether our applications to the Dana program (a summer funding source through the IC Financial Aid Office) are successful, and students who we don't have funding for. Usually this last category is small -- we've only had two students we couldn't fund in the past two years. Our funding for summer research comes from external grants from places like the National Science Foundation, from physics department funds, and from the IC Dana Internship. We usually hire 10-12 students each summer. 

There are many opportunities to do International or National research at places other than Ithaca College. We do not run these programs so you will need to apply directly to the selection committees. We will help you with your application and write letters of recommendations for you. The National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates fellowship to conduct research at a large research university is a good starting place. You can also look for opportunities on the Society for Physics Students national website. National and International positions can be very competitive, but also very exciting. (Click here to learn more about summer research opportunities).

Dan Briotta (section 1)

  • Track and measure asteroids at Clinton Ford Observatory (CFO)
  • Measure light curves of rotating asteroids at CFO
  • Measure light curves of eclipsing binary and variable stars
  • Programming to utilize spectrograph at CFO
  • Software/hardware development to utilize Adaptive Optics system

Beth Clark Joseph (section 2)

  • Observe asteroids telescopically in the infrared to determine composition
  • Measure asteroids with the radar at Arecibo to find metallic objects
  • Write programs and run computational models of theoretical scattering from asteroid surfaces
  • Re-engineer the CNS building (and the IC campus) with sustainable energy systems

Luke Keller (section 3)

  • Optical design and optical engineering
  • Astrophysics: ground-based observations of planet-forming material orbiting stars
  • Astrophysics: space-based observations of planet-forming material orbiting stars
  • Image processing and analysis
  • Spectral analysis

Michael Rogers (section 4)

  • Testing the use of a non-magnetic cart for error reduction in magnetic surveys (continuing project)
  • Study student learning gains in our introductory courses.
  • Processing radar and magnetic data from Late Bronze Age sites in Cyprus
  • Building a cylindrical scanner

Matthew Sullivan (section 5)

  • Growth of bulk crystalline superconductors with enhanced flux-pinning
  • Calibration of aluminum metal evaporation (deposition time vs. thickness)
  • Evaporation of metals (Au, Ag, Ni, Cr)
  • Hall effect in aluminum
  • Measurement of electronic charge using a Tolman-Stewart apparatus

Bruce Thompson (section 6)

  • Make atoms cold in a Magneto-Optical Trap by shining lasers on them and characterize their kinetic and optical characteristics.
  • Make a current controller for a laser diode by designing and building a circuit board and chassis.
  • Observe the occultation of a star by an asteroid using the Ford telescope and analyze the data to determine the diameter of the asteroid.
  • Assemble and test the components of a radio telescope and use it to observe the Sun and Jupiter.
  • Study the efficiency of tandem bicycle riding and determine why they can go faster than singles.

 Kelley D. Sullivan (section 7)

  • Designing and building a fluorescence microscopy laboratory at Ithaca College.

Matt Price (section 8)

  • Designing and building the Naked-Eye Observatory.
  • Developing an instrument to measure student understanding of the Nature of Science.
  • Building a radio telescope at Ithaca College.


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