Six undergraduate physics concentrators awarded prestigious fellowships

April 6, 2017

Five Brown University undergraduate Physics concentrators were awarded highly competitive NSF Fellowships for graduate studies. In 2017, the NSF chose to fund only 2,000 applicants out of a pool of 13,000. Additionally, another undergraduate Physics concentrator has been awarded the prestigious Barry Goldwater Fellowship. 

NSF Fellowships:
Sarah Blunt (’17) plans to modify an exoplanet orbit-fitting algorithm she developed in collaboration with the Gemini Planet Imager Team, and then use the modified code to fit the orbits of all known brown dwarfs that have been directly imaged. The resulting orbit information will help us to understand planetary formation.

Amy Butcher (’17) devised a project to desalinate water using the plasmonic response of aluminum nanoparticles. She proposes to assemble core-shell nanoparticles into a porous aluminum structure that floats on water and makes the nanoparticles' photothermal response to sunlight more efficient.

Jovan Nelson (’17) plans to use neural networks to classify Standard Model particles. As certain accelerated particles interact with detector material they form “jets” that at high energies become difficult to measure. Using signal-processing techniques from visual processing and neural networks he proposes to improve our ability to better distinguish signal from background noise.  

Daniel Parker ('15) will study entanglement, a uniquely quantum property of matter. He plans to measure the amount of entanglement in 2D theories to diagnose their essential quantum properties by the computing a quantity called the “entanglement entropy.” Currently, the process of computing entanglement entropy is well-understood in one dimension, and Daniel’s project will begin to make it possible to quickly diagnose and understand many experimentally realizable 2D quantum systems.

Jack Wilson (‘16) is working with a group to build an experiment that traps large arrays of laser-cooled Ytterbium atoms in vacuum and engineer strong interactions between individual atoms. Making these large arrays of cold atoms while maintaining control over each one of them could open doors for new quantum computing architectures and new studies of quantum matter, built one atom at a time.

Goldwater Fellowship: 
Evan Coleman ('18) won the Goldwater for his work in particle physics. His research is in the physics of top quarks and jet substructure under the guidance of Professor Meenakshi Narain. Last September, he helped produce CERN's first measurement of the lifetime of the top quark. He also focuses on using physically-motivated statistical techniques, like machine learning, to improve particle identification in the recently-upgraded LHC and to study future particle detectors. This summer, he will be starting theoretical research in Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) and some popular models of Quantum Gravity, while continuing his experimental work.