CASPER offers multiple research opportunities for interested undergraduate students. A limited number of funded fellowships are available during the fall, spring and summer semesters to qualified students. CASPER also runs a National Science Foundation funded summer REU program, open to undergraduate students from around the world.

Students interested in applying for a CASPER Fellowship should begin the application process by reading the descriptions of the active research areas within CASPER which are listed below.

A brief description of each research area along with selected papers and related links are supplied to provide applicants with relevant background material. A more comprehensive description with a list of selected CASPER papers and background reading material is included as a single pdf document below.

Selected CASPER papers and background reading material.

Small Satellite Studies/Dust Detector Design - Truell Hyde, Rene Laufer, Lorin Matthews, Jorge Carmona, Mike Cook, Jimmy Schmoke
The Space Science Lab develops diagnostics and science packages for use on spacecraft, including nanosatellites and space missions. Small Satellites provide opportunities for research in near-earth orbit and as components of deeper space missions. CASPER has specific interest in the detection of interplanetary dust and orbital debris as spacecraft in near-earth orbit and on deeper space missions are subject to damage from dust impacts. Low velocity (less than 1 km/s) impact studies are designed to characterize the dust encountered in space and test materials for damage. The Space Science Lab within CASPER currently has several active flight missions on which they will be providing the science instrument. Development of these dust detector experiments is currently underway. As such, REU Fellows can participate in (among others):

  • Research and design of the detector system.
  • Design and development and testing of the electronics.
  • Design and development of the mechanical system.
  • Design and development of flight software.
  • Design and development of the spacecraft interface.

The above will be completed in conjunction with CASPER partners at the University of Texas at Austin ( and Virginia Tech (

Self-Assembling Dust Structures in an RF Reference Cell - Truell Hyde, Lorin Matthews, Jie Kong, Ke Qiao, Jorge Carmona, Mike Cook, Jimmy Schmoke
The Hypervelocity Impact and Dusty Plasma Lab conducts a number of experiments using four experimental platforms, including two GEC RF reference cells, IPG6 (an inductively-coupled plasma generator), and a light gas gun. Dust particles immersed within a plasma environment acquire an electric charge. Depending on the plasma environment and the confinement provided by the experiment, the dust particles self-assemble in a variety of structures including dust crystals, Coulomb balls, strings, and helical string bundles. A variety of experiments within complex plasmas investigating the interactions of the dust particles with the plasma and their influence on each other will be ongoing this summer. Complete lab diagnostics and theoretical simulation capabilities as well as full-time technical support providing machining capability and electronics research and development are also available to Fellows working within the HIDPL. A list of current projects available along with background reading material, is appended to this document.

Numerical Modeling of Astrophysical and Laboratory Systems -Truell Hyde, Lorin Matthews, Ke Qiao, Jie Kong, Constanze Liaw, Augusto Carballido
The Astrophysics and Space Science Theory Group develops numerical simulations of many physical systems, including dust charging and dynamics in space and laboratory plasmas, early stages of planet formation, dynamics of ring systems, turbulence, magnetohydrodynamics, and extensions of these models to other systems such as graphene. REUs will have the opportunity to add new features to existing models, run and analyze datasets, develop new models and functionality, and collaborate with ongoing laboratory experiments. A more comprehensive description with a list of selected CASPER papers and background reading material is included as a single pdf document.

CASPER Experimental Astronomy Summaries
Experimental Astronomy - Dr. Dwight Russell and Mr. Dick Campbell
Using the CTAS(Central Texas Astronomical Society) telescope at the Clifton site, in collaboration with the UT astronomy department, we will study luminosity curves for white dwarf stars. The data will be taken and used to study periodic variations in the intensities of these stars. The expected periodicity is in the range of 1s to 1000s. This time scale allows for usable data to be taken in the relatively short period of time of one night to a few nights. The CTAS telescope is a state of the art computer controlled facility. The collaboration with UT-Austin will put this research into a larger context of white dwarf physics helping to guide this work toward publishable results. As part of this project, the student(s) will be involved in:

  1. star selection
  2. operation of the CTAS telescope via the internet interface
  3. the recording and analysis of the data. Raw Data will be in the form of CCD images that will need to be converted to light curves.
Meyer Observatory
Central Texas Astronomical Society

Department of Physics Research Projects
Experimental Surface Chemical Physics - Ken Park, Zhenrong Zhang
The research goal of this project is to understand and control the individual reaction steps of organic air pollutants on doped TiO2 thin film catalysts in visible-light photodegradation reactions. The team approaches the photoreaction mechanism directly on the catalyst surface and at the molecular level at which the reaction operates. In situ scanning tunneling microscopy, coupled with Raman spectroscopy, will be used to analyze what happens to reactant adsorbates at certain surface sites in visible-light photoreactions. A femtosecond laser quantum control technique will be utilized to selectively break bonds in adsorbed molecules and to enable new reactions that are normally not accessible. Publications describing past research related to this project can be found here.

Experimental High Energy Physics - Jay R. Dittmann and Kenichi Hatakeyama
The Experimental High Energy Physics group at Baylor is engaged in elementary particle physics research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. At CERN, protons are accelerated to nearly the speed of light by the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. Beams of protons collide at the center of the several massive detectors, and data recorded from these energetic collisions help physicists to identify the properties of the elementary particles that make up the universe. REU students who join Baylor's High Energy Physics group during the summer will have an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of high energy physics research by analyzing data from the CMS detector. You'll learn the answer to questions like: How does a particle accelerator work? What happens when protons collide? How do physicists detect particles that emerge from proton-proton collisions? At Baylor, you'll have the opportunity to analyze actual data from particle collisions or to create software that is useful for the operation of the CMS detector. This project is especially well suited to students who are skilled with computers and have some experience with C++ or java.

Additional Links
CMS Experiment at CERN
CDF Experiment at Fermilab

  • 2014 REU
  • 2014 RET
Casper-2013 Fall Seminar Series