Highlights From the 2023 Physics Summer Undergraduate Research Program

The Physics department has a long history of hosting a robust Summer Undergraduate Research Program involving groups in Physics, Applied Physics, SLAC, and other related departments. This summer, about 50 undergraduate students participated in the 10- week program, conducting research in a broad variety of fields ranging from cosmology to quantum information science. Among the participants, about 40% had just completed their first year at Stanford and were engaging in their first research experience. In addition to Stanford students, we integrated participants from other universities through the Leadership Alliance and Cal-Bridge programs, which are targeted at students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Students matched with faculty mentors and identified a research topic over the winter quarter, and typically also worked closely with graduate student and postdoc mentors during the summer. In addition to these traditional research activities, students attended weekly faculty seminars and professional development workshops led by graduate student coordinators Cady van Assendelft and Sauviz Alaei. Topics ranged from goal-setting in order to set expectations and priorities at the start of the summer, to a panel involving graduate students representing a breadth of physics subfields, to principles of scientific communication. Undergraduate researchers also had opportunities to attend tours at SLAC and the Student Observatory. Finally, they made time to bond socially as well over physics movie nights, liquid nitrogen ice cream, and a trip to see “Oppenheimer.”

The summer research program culminated with students giving 6-minute talks to their peers and mentors, highlighting their accomplishments over the summer. The presentations were excellent; they generally included impressive results and demonstrated awareness of how the work fit into a broader context in the field. We anticipate that in several cases, the summer research will provide a foundation for continued work and thesis research during the upcoming academic school year.

-On behalf of the summer research coordinators: Ben Feldman, Chaya Nanavati, Eunice Han, and Elva Carbajal