Penn State University




Research in Neutrino Particle Astrophysics

The Pennsylvania State University, in University Park PA, is a premier site for multi-messenger astrophysics, the study of astrophysics that uses the combined information neutrinos, photons, charged particles, and gravitational waves to create a deeper understanding of complex astrophysical phenomena. Astrophysicists in the Particle Astrophysics group, the Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics, and the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at Penn State use the rich information offered by all four messengers to paint a coherent picture of the non-thermal universe. 

Research on Neutrinos is hosted in Prof. Stephanie Wissel’s lab. Neutrinos are exciting to study as they offer a unique window into the universe, because they interact sole through the weak force, such that they can be used to probe extreme conditions throughout the universe and to test physics at energies beyond the standard models. Projects will focus on working one of two new neutrino telescopes, either the called the Beamforming Elevated Array for Cosmic Neutrinos (BEACON) or the Radio Neutrino Observatory in Greenland (RNO-G). BEACON uses an array of radio-frequency antennas trained on the horizon, to search for radio emission from showers produced after a tau neutrino interacts in the Earth. RNO-G will be the largest neutrino telescope in the world when it is completed. It places antennas in the ice in Greenland and searches for neutrino interactions there-in. 

Specific projects range from 

  • Simulations of the sensitivity of BEACON or RNO-G to neutrinos or cosmic rays 
  • Reconstructing the arrival direction or energy of neutrino or cosmic ray events in BEACON or RNO-G 
  • Designing and testing a site survey module for the development of a tau neutrino observatory 
  • Upgrades, calibration and field work at the BEACON site 
  • Instrumentation design (antennas, calibration devices) and testing 
  • Calibration of new RNO-G stations 


Research in Multimessenger Astrophysics theory will be with Prof. David Radice and Prof. Kohta Murase and will focus on the modeling of the high-energy emission from colliding neutron stars. The group of Prof. Radice performs general relativistic simulations of merging neutron stars, while the group of Prof. Murase studies the production and acceleration of cosmic rays and high-energy photons and neutrinos from these cataclysmic events. 

Possible projects include: 

  • Study the magnetic field topology produced in neutron star mergers 
  • Study of the motion of matter in the remnant disk due to convection and magnetic stresses 
  • Implementation of Lagrangian tracer particles in the simulation code 
  • Production of synthetic observations of high-energy photons from a population of binary mergers 

All projects involve a combination of code development, either in the simulation framework or as stand-alone postprocessing scripts, and analysis and interpretation of simulation output. 

Research in Nanoscale Physics in Materials (REU)

The Physics Department has hosted an REU in Condensed Matter Physics and Materials for almost 20 years Research in Nanoscale Physics varies from year to year, and can be computational or experimental. Topics in the past have included studying 2-dimensional (2D) layered materials, nano-ribbons, and qbits. These and other nano-structured materials have exciting electrical, optical, and magnetic properties, and have been the source of new understanding of condensed matter physics. Techniques used vary from using cleanroom nanofabrication facilities to create samples, to simulations of nanostructures and behavior, to nano-device construction, to measuring electrical, magnetic, photonic properties of new 2D and nano-sized materials under extreme conditions.

For more information about possible projects please see


Program Details

What is it?

Penn State hopes to recruit at least four Cal-Bridge summer students who will work for 10 weeks in the summer on a project within Particle Astrophysics or Nanoscale Condensed Matter Physics.  At this time projects will likely be in-person depending on the situation at Penn State University in the summer of 2022. 

Participants in all research projects will be embedded in the Penn State Nanoscale and Materials REU, through which they will receive mentoring support, meet other summer interns, engage the public through outreach activities, and receive professional development training. At the end of the summer, you will present your work to other students and Penn State researchers at a research symposium. 

Selected students will receive a $6,000 stipend for work. In addition, participants will be provided with housing and each student will receive up to $600 toward travel expenses. The program dates for the summer of 2022 are from May 31 to August 5, 2022, inclusive. It may be possible to arrange alternative dates.  


When and How to Apply

Applications are due February 1, 2022. To apply to the program, follow the Application Instructions. In addition, you must ask two faculty members (or others familiar with your academic or work background) to submit letters of reference using the link on the application instructions page.

Indicate their names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses in your on-line application where appropriate. It is your responsibility to confirm that these letters have been sent and failure to obtain these two letters will render your application incomplete and lead to its rejection without review.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants DUE-1741863, AST-1636646, and AST-1836019.