Undergraduate Research

The Bigelow group's research in ultracold atomic physics, quantum optics, and nanoscience provides many opportunities for undergraduate students to contribute and learn. Projects in our group typically involve independent hands-on work (optics, lasers, machining, electronics), mathematical modeling and/or simulations (Mathematica, Femlab, Matlab, Code V), learning about the science and day-to-day operations in the labs, opportunities to take formal short optics courses, involvement in our group meetings and seminars, technical writing, and the chance to present at professional meetings. The skills learned in our group are common to any other optics or atomic physics lab, and many of our students go on to do their PhDs with top researchers around the world. The Bigelow lab also has a reputation as a great working environment, due to lively interactions and visits from kittens. Highly motivated students willing to commit to solving diverse problems should speak with Prof. Bigelow about present projects. 

Undergraduates from all universities are invited to apply to the University of Rochester's National Science Foundation - Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer program. Qualified students are encouraged to pursue the McNair Summer Fellowship. University of Rochester students may have the option to do a senior thesis with us. 

Our undergraduates have the opportunity to present their work at the Frontiers in Optics (APS-DLS & OSA) Symposium on Undergraduate Research, the Rochester Symposium for Physics Students, the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics, and other local and international conferences. 


Past undergraduate projects (partial list)
  • A light pulse control system for quantum information in BECs 
  • Investigating the silver and gold structure in the surface of a daguerreotype 
  • Imaging Bose-Einstein condensates 
  • Creation and characterization of a magneto-optical trap for an undergraduate teaching laboratory (learn more
  • Investigation into the nano-structured surface of the daguerreotype
  • Measuring the linewidth of lasers using a Fabry-Perot cavity  
  • Characterization of mode behavior of a diode laser with a wavemeter 
  • Construction of a Multi-Purpose High Power Tunable Laser for use in Finding the Rovibrational Ground State of NaCs 
  • Linewidth measurement of an external-cavity diode laser using a self-heterodyne method [pdf of senior thesis] 
  • Building a locked and frequency-stabilized external-cavity diode lasers for an undergraduate teaching laboratory magneto-optical trap 
  • Using a Fabry-Perot cavity-based transfer lock to frequency-stabilize a 980nm diode laser.
  • Modeling a hybrid magnetic - optical dipole trap in Mathematica to assist in the implementation of the trap in the BEC lab.
  • Building a tunable laser centered at 852nm with a power range of 5 mW - 250 mW that can be used for photoassociation of ultracold NaCs molecules.
  • Designing and implementing a µs-precision timing control system for use in a Bose-Einstein Condensate experiment.
  • Experimentally determining the feasibility of a permanent magnet Zeeman slower for ultracold sodium.
  • Designing a system to modulate the frequency profile of a broadband laser diode with a grating and mask for use in vibrational cooling of NaCs molecules.
  • Designing an optical dipole trap with a fiber laser and its application to Bose-Einstein Condensates.
  • Redesigning the 4-f Fourier imaging system for a camera to image Bose-Einstein Condensates.
  • Development of a Monte Carlo simulation of a time of flight mass spectrometer for molecular and atomic ion detection.
  • Characterization of the optical properties of magnesium fluoride coated window flanges.
  • Containing a spinning Bose-Einstein condensate. 
  • Construction of Optical Mode Converters for use in Bose Einstein Condensate Studies. 
  • Computer Simulations of the Electrodynamic Trapping of Polar Molecules. 
  • Efficient Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) of Ti:sapphire Laser Using Non-Linear BBO Crystal. 
  • Manufacture of a thin wire electrostatic trap (TWIST) for ultracold molecules.
  • Simulation and experimental study of multiwavelength state control of cold trapped atoms and molecules.
  • Creation of a holographic diffraction grating using film and LCDs.
  • Designing a system to do off-resonant defocus-contrast imaging of ultracold atomic clouds.
  • Rotating a Bose-Einstein condensate with an optical vortex beam. 
  • Simulation electrodynamic trapping of various polar molecules
  • Two-trap confinement and Bose-Einstein condensation. 
  • Designing an atomic beam slower.
  • Absorption Imaging of Ultracold Cesium in a Magneto-Optical Trap. 
  • Dynamic Confinement Ultra -Cold Atoms: Demostration of RODiO Trap (Rotating Off-resonant Dipoe Optical Trap). 
  • Random walks in laser cooling. 
  • Working to produce a double-species Bose-Einstein Condensate confined on a nanochip.
  • Contributions to the construction of a Cesium atom trap.
  • Modeling the chaos in diode lasers. 
  • Development of infrared diode lasers and saturation absorption spectroscsopy.


Past undergraduate (BS) theses (partial list)

  • Construction and Characterization of an Interference-Filter-Stabilized External-Cavity Diode Laser, Louis Baum (Stoddard Best Thesis Prize 2013) [pdf thesis] [poster
  • A Brief History of Solitons with Applications, John Golden 
  • Student Lab in Digital Speckle-Pattern Interferometry, Matthew Moffa
  • Creation of an Undergraduate Lab to Measure In Plane Vibration Using Digital Pattern Interferomety, Brian P. Padworny 
  • Construction and Characterization of a Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT), Ananth Chikkatur (Stoddard Best Thesis Prize 1997) [pdf]
  • Frequency Stabilization of a Helium-Neon Laser, Matthew Dobbins (Stoddard Best Thesis Honorable Mention 1996) [pdf]
  • The Dynamics of a Periodically Kicked Pendulum, Mark Su [pdf]
  • External Cavity with Litrow-Mounted Diffraction Grating, Daniel Jeannotte [pdf]
  • Molecules and Multiwavelength State Control of Cold Trapped Atoms & Molecules