Participant Support: REU Site: Research in Symmetries at the University of Kentucky

Grants and Contracts Details


This project is a 10-week summer REU Site for eight participants in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kentucky. The program focuses around individual mentored research projects in nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, and astronomy, loosely related through the central theme of symmetry. These research topics are part of the research programs of faculty mentors funded by NSF, DOE, and NASA, tailored for accessibility to 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates. They involve advanced physics techniques that are not normally available at smaller institutions. REU participants will work along-side graduate students and postdocs in the lab, interacting daily with their mentors to produce publishable results in these areas at the frontiers of physics and astronomy. The program will also include professional development through a series of seminars and workshops, and include specific technical training in computation and data analysis. Students will present results at a local poster session and be encouraged to present at national conferences. Intellectual Merit: REU students will participate in research projects that address issues at the forefront of modern physics and astronomy: What is the origin of matter in the universe? Is there new high-energy physics which modifies the magnetic moment of the muon? What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy that dominate the composition of the universe? What prevents stars from forming from the cold dense gas in the centers of massive clusters of galaxies? What types of phase transitions must be understood in terms of topological invariants instead of broken symmetries? What materials host exotic quantum spin liquid phases? REU students will be trained with knowledge and skills to address these fundamental questions. We also plan to leverage the KY-WV LSAMP consortium by building a strong cohort and pipeline for graduate and advanced work in physics disciplines. Broader Impacts: This REU site will target undergraduate students from two-year community and technical colleges and regional universities in rural Kentucky and Central Appalachia, to enhance the STEM/Physics workforce in this region. There is a notable lack of technological job opportunities in this predominantly rural region, which undermines the benefit of a STEM education. However a STEM-enabled workforce is required to support new high-technology companies. In addition, students have structural and cultural influences to obtain a higher education at community colleges close to home. By recruiting students from this region and encouraging them to share their summer research experiences with their teachers and peers, we hope to establish research ties with these institutions, enhancing STEM education in the region to break this cycle. We will also recruit underrepresented minorities, including women, both locally and nationally, building on our established collaborations with Berea College.
Effective start/end date5/1/244/30/27


  • National Science Foundation


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