This award supports the renewal of the Physics REU site at Nevis Labs, the laboratory for high energy physics, nuclear physics, and astrophysics at Columbia University. The main focus of the program is student participation in original, cutting-edge physics research, working with a faculty mentor. The students spend 10 weeks during the summer participating in the broad Nevis high energy physics and particle astrophysics research program, which seeks to address the most pressing issues of these fields, including the origin of mass, the question of neutrino oscillations, and the search for Dark Matter. Answers to these questions will have profound implications for our understanding of the fundamental structure and evolution of the universe. The REU program provides the opportunity for undergraduates to join in the excitement of these pursuits, as well as to participate in the development of the technological and computational tools required. Through an extensive series of lectures and lab visits, the students are also exposed to the most exciting problems in many other fields of physics. As the variety of experiments are at different stages in their development, Nevis provides the opportunity for students to gain experience in all aspects of the experiments, from initial detector design, hardware development and construction, to software development and data analysis.
During the summers of 2011-2013, we operated a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site at Nevis Laboratories, the high energy physics, nuclear physics, and particle astrophysics laboratory of Columbia University. Each summer, about 10 undergraduate students from around the country participated in the program for a 10-week period. The goal of the program was to provide undergraduate students, and particularly students from under-represented groups, including women and minorities, first-hand experience in state-of-the-art scientific research, and to encourage them to consider pursuing graduate careers in science and engineering. The main activity of each student was active participation in the on-going research efforts of the Nevis physicists. The Nevis research program addresses a broad range of the most pressing issues of high energy physics. The research programs joined by the students included the ATLAS hadron collider experiment, the DoubleChooz and microBoone neutrino experiments, the Xenon dark matter detection experiment and its associated ATTA project, and the VERITAS gamma ray astrophysics experiment. In addition to their research activities, the students participated in a series of seminars on topics of on-going research in physics. The seminar series included a total of typically 15 seminars each summer, covering a broad range of topics in experimental and theoretical particle physics, astrophysics, and condensed matter physics. The REU students were also given tours of several experimental facilities at Columbia, including the Nevis Labs Electronics Shop, the astrophysics lab, the Lattice QCD supercomputer facility, condensed matter physics labs, and the RARAF biophysics research facility. In addition, a one-day trip was made to Brookhaven National Lab, where the students toured several different experimental facilities including the RHIC accelerator, the Phenix expt, and the National Synchrotron Lab. The last week of the REU program was reserved for the preparation by the student of a written scientific report describing the research performed, and a 30-minute seminar-style presentation to the lab-wide audience. These steps exposed the students to the techniques of scientific writing, as well as the methods and practice of orally presenting their results to a scientific audience. In addition, the written reports serve as one measure of the accomplishments and effectiveness of the REU program itself. The studentsâ€™ written reports, as well as the slides from their final presentations, are available from our WWW page at www.nevis.columbia.edu/reu.