UC Irvine

Deimos spectra

PHOTO (above): A snippet of a raw DEIMOS frame [trimmed in both the spatial and spectral dimensions], with on the order of 10-15 spectra running horizontally, from the DEEP2 survey (courtesy Michael Cooper) .

Summer Research in Physics & Astrophysics in the UCI SURF Program

The UCI SURF Program is a program run by Graduate Division for undergraduates students at non-UCI schools whose goal is to come to UCI for graduate school. Students do research with a faculty mentor and take part in professional development seminars. 

SURF is open to students who plan to graduate in Spring 2018 but who plan to go on to a Master’s degree program before they apply to PhD programs. If you are one of these students, describe where you plan to go in the Fall and that you plan to apply to UC schools for your PhD. The SURF program is designed to prepare diverse students to enter graduate programs at UCI, so it would be in your best interest to say that you will apply to UCI, although you could also say that you are unsure of exactly what UC school you favor at the moment and you would specifically like to come to UCI to check it out.

Here are previous astrophysics & physics research project options that UCI faculty would work on with scholars.


  • Black Holes – Possible projects in Dr. Barth's research group include: 1) Reverberation mapping – the measurements of active galaxy light curves and spectroscopy to map the environments of supermassive black holes that lie in the centers of nearby galaxies in order to measure the masses of the black holes, and 2) Measurement and modeling of molecular gas kinematics in nearby galaxies using data from ALMA (radio telescopes), to study the mass distribution in galactic nuclei and measure the masses of central supermassive black holes.  Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Barth.

  • Exoplanets  – Dr. Shields' research group in the Shields Center for Exoplanet Climate and Interdisciplinary Education focuses on using a hierarchy of theoretical computer models to explore the possible climates and potential habitability of rocky, Earth-sized extrasolar planets orbiting lower-mass, M-dwarf stars. Possible projects include using climate models to quantify the effects on surface habitability of a range of planetary properties that are currently unconstrained by observations, including orbital parameters, different surface and atmospheric compositions, and different host star radiation environments. Involvement in Dr. Shields' educational organization Rising Stargirls targeting middle-school girls of color with a creative arts-based approach to astronomy and astrobiology learning, is also possible. Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aomawa Shields


  • Biophysics of Living Organisms – Bacteria is one of the best systems in which to study the dynamics of living organisms due to its relative simplicity and the wealth of available tools. We explore how physical properties of a system (i.e., shear stress, advection, diffusion) impact the development of bacteria across multiple length scales, from single cell units into multicellular organisms. Our projects seek to understand the role of physical properties in the development of dense biofilm communities. We design and fabricate microfluidic devices, perform cellular manipulation, and measure cellular dynamics using optical microscopy and computational analysis. The lab connects experiment and theory through the development of models and simulations. Faculty Mentor: Dr. Albert Siryaporn 
  • Exploring quantum electrons in flexible 2-dimensional materials   – Students will fabricate nano-devices made from single atom thick materials and measure their quantum electronic properties in large magnetic fields. Other potential projects include developing a web app that simulates the structure of stacked 2d materials and resulting moire superlattices. Faculty Mentor: Javier Sanchez-Yamagishi
  • Tracking atoms with artificially intelligent electron microscopes – Use state-of-the-art transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, 4D electron diffraction, in conjunction with deep learning and other machine learning algorithms to track and quantify the location, species, crystal phase, and electronic structures of individual atoms inside materials. Potential research projects include: 1) identifying cation intermixing and phase transformation in lithium ion battery cathode materials for making better batteries, 2) strain mapping of fuel cell nanocatalysts to understand how their strain profile is connected with their catalytic properties. Faculty Mentor: Huolin Xin
  • Theoretical and computational condensed matter physics - Students will spend the summer immersed in solving the equations of quantum mechanics to find new drugs and new materials. Machine learning, quantum mechanics, mathematics, materials science, quantum chemistry, warm dense matter are all part of the mix. Faculty Mentor: Kieron Burke
2015 SURF students
SURF students at the 2015 Summer Research Symposium at UCI.

Program Details

The UCI SURF Program provides a $4,000 stipend, $500 in travel expenses, and housing together with the rest of the SURF students in a UCI dormitory free of charge.

Upon successful completion of the program, all students will also be given the opportunity to attend the American Astronomical Society meeting the following January to present their research, funded by their research mentor or the CAMPARE program.

Who should apply?

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by the beginning of the program. They must be enrolled in one of the CAMPARE participating institutions at the time of their application. Participants who will graduate from their 4-year institution in the spring prior to the start of the summer internship are still eligible for the UCI-SURF program. Community college students in the process of transferring to a 4-year institution are eligible to apply.

All applicants must have completed a minimum of one full year of college-level physics by the start of the program.

When and How to Apply

Applications are due Tuesday, 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.

Successful students will be notified in March. The research program runs from   June 19 to August 12, 2022. Participants must be available during the entire 8 weeks of the program.


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