The LIGO Laboratory offers two student research/internship programs: Caltech SURF program, open to students from any university; and MIT's UROP program, for students from MIT and Wellesley College.
Caltech's SURF Program
Each summer, LIGO hosts students as part of Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. LIGO SURF students pursue cutting-edge research in gravitational-wave science and engineering (e.g., detection technologies, strong-field gravity, astrophysical sources, and LIGO data science). Students can request to work either at Caltech or at one of the two interferometer sites in Hanford WA or Livingston LA.
The LIGO SURF program also aims to increase the participation of underrepresented students (such as African American, Hispanic, and Native American, females who are underrepresented in their discipline, and first-generation college students) in science and engineering Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs and to make opportunities in gravitational wave science more visible to students not traditionally exposed to it. The program supports Caltech's commitment to training a diverse set of science, technology, engineering, and math leaders. Students from groups that are historically underrepresented in science are strongly encouraged to apply to the LIGO SURF program and identify their minority status in the application. Students that are elected for a LIGO SURF Fellowship may elect to be associated with the Caltech WAVE Program, and may also elect to be considered for a Carl Albert Rouse Undergraduate Research Fellowship or a Victor M. Blanco Fellowship.
2016's Rouse Fellowship recipients were Oduchu Ogbonnaya, a senior Mechanical Engineering major at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisana, and Bria Storr, a sophomore Physics major at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Ogbonnaya worked with Professor Joe Giaime on the LLO Vacuum System, while Ms. Storr worked with Caltech scientist Joe Betzwieser on Spectral Line Tracking at LLO. Both students were recognized at the 2016 National Society for Black Physicists (NSBP) Fall Workshop at Fermilab in October 2016.
The 2016 Blanco Fellowship recipients were Danielle Frostig, a junior astrophysics/physics major at Harvard University, and Michael Antia, a senior physics student at the University of Central Florida. Ms. Frostig researched acoustic emissions in metals, while Mr. Antia worked on noise hunting in Advanced LIGO.
Short list of previous student project titles spanning possible research fields:
- Thermal Noise in Ultra-Stable Fabry-Perot Cavities
- Automatic System Identification of the Photodetectors in a Gravitational Wave Detector
- Testing the Strong Field Dynamics of General Relativity Using Compact Binary Systems
- Cutting Edge Computing for the Extraction of Astrophysical Parameters from Gravitational Wave Observatories
- Improving the Detection Rate of Gravitational Waves from Coalescing Binary Black Holes with a Template Bank Consistency Test
- Modernizing the Interferometer’s Control Loops
- Investigating Crackle Noise in Metal Blade Springs
- Rapid Sky Localization of Binary Inspiral Sources
- Low-Noise Seismic Sensing and Actuation
- Adaptive Quantum Measurements in Future Gravitational-Wave Detectors
Previous projects and their abstracts
This program is open to undergraduate students from any institution. To apply or to find out more, visit the LIGO SURF website.
MIT's UROP Program*
* Program is available only to MIT and Wellesley College students.
MIT also offers a summer research program called UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) for MIT and Wellesley College undergraduate students each year. The LIGO Laboratory group typically mentors 6 to 10 UROP students each summer. Learn more at the UROP website.
Other universities may have undergraduate research opportunities involved with LIGO. If you are interested in other potential work or study opportunities, check the list of LSC member institutions to see if your university is a member.