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Radboud University > Faculty of Science > Department of Astrophysics > Research > Student Projects

Student Projects

Many Bachelor and Master projects are possible in astronomy, astrophysics or astroparticle physics, most of which are defined flexibly so that they can be adapted to be a project which fits you best. Do you prefer observational work, numerical simulations or theory? Or maybe instrumentation or education? Do you have ideas about which subject you are interested in, or are you open to anything?

The best way to discover the possibilities and decide which project fits you best is to make an appointment with a (number of) potential supervisor(s) and have a chat with them. Below we list a number of example projects to give you an idea of the possibilities. Please contact the people listed for an appointment to talk about possible projects, either based on the ones below or not.

Example Bachelor Projects

(For example Master projects, see below)

The Nijmegen Radio Interferometer

In June 2012, the Ulrich J. Schwarz Radio Interferometer on the roof of the Nijmegen Astrophysics Department was officially opened. Several projects are available to work with this telescope: technical/calibration projects such as measuring the antenna pattern of the dishes, but also scientific projects such as measuring neutral hydrogen in the Milky Way, studying the quiet and the flaring Sun, or trying to detect variability in extragalactic sources.
Contact: Rocco Coppejans, Elmar Körding

Using LOFAR to detect Transient Phenomena

The LOFAR Cosmic Rays Key Science Project (CR KSP) aims to use LOFAR to detect a variety of transient phenomena, including energetic particles interacting with the Moon and in the Earth's atmosphere, pulsar giant pulses, lightning (on both Earth and Saturn), Solar and Jovian bursts, and unusual radio-frequency interference (RFI). We have a number of projects available related to these LOFAR transients, which can be computational, theoretical, and/or experimental in nature.
Contact: Heino Falcke

Image quality control in VST Galactic Plane Surveys

The European Galactic Plane surveys image the Milky Way in optical bands (u,g,r,i,Ha) using the INT on La Palma and the VST in Chile. For the Chilean data currently coming in, the quality control of the data is a big issue with the overall performance of the telescope. The project will be to analyse the data that has been achieved, and see where the largest hits in observing efficiency comes from. Project includes visits to the University of Hertfordshire (UK) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). For an intro to the survey see: Drew et al., 2014, MNRAS 440, 2036
Contact: Paul Groot

UV-excess source selection in the Galactic Plane Surveys

The European Galactic Plane surveys image the Milky Way in optical bands (u,g,r,i,Ha) using the INT on La Palma and the VST in Chile. One of the aims is to obtain a census of the Galactic population of stellar remnants. A large fraction of these can be found through their blue colour. This translates into a blue u-g colour, with respect to g-r. With the Northern UVEX now 90% complete and VPHAS at 40% done, now is the time to obtain a much larger sample than the one presented in Verbeek et al., 2011. Also, a simplified and more robust algorithm is in place at the moment. References: Groot et al., 2009, MNRAS
Contact: Paul Groot

Machine Learning algorithms for Galactic Plane Surveys

The European Galactic Plane Survey (EGAPS) will soon have broad and narrow band photometric colours on over one million objects within our own Milky Way Galaxy. In order to take full advantage of this dataset, and maximise the scientific output of the survey, classifications are required for all detected sources. These include main sequence stars, young stellar objects, compact binaries and galaxies. This project will combine techniques taken from computer science with astrophysical modeling in order to achieve this goal. Various machine learning algorithms such as neural networks, swarm optimisation and Bayesian classification will be used and tested to achieve the best classification on the EGAPS dataset. Particular emphasis will be devoted to correctly identify main sequence stars, as these can be used for a variety of applications in astrophysics, like for example mapping the gas and dust within our Milky Way. The project will begin by using the most contemporary models of stellar spectra to create a reliable training set. This training set will then be used to 'teach' the developed classification algorithm to recognise stars within the survey, and finally produce a robust method for stellar identification for EGAPS. This new method will then be continuously used to identify more and more stars as more and more data is gathered by the survey in the future. For more information click here .
Contact: Paul Groot

Development of data acquisition software for a scintillator array in LOFAR

We are currently building a scintillator array for the LOFAR radio observatory. Within the student project the read out software for the scintillation counters will be developed.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Detection of radio emission from air showers with LOFAR

Objective of the LOFAR key science project cosmic rays is the detection of radio emission from air showers. For this purpose the read-out of the LOFAR antennas will be triggered by information from an air shower detector - LORA. Aim of the student project is to analyze the data taken with the radio antennas of the LOFAR telescope and to infer the properties of the radio emission from extensive air showers.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Obtaining fundamental parameters of stellar black holes

In recent years we have found a number of correlations between different parameters of accreting black holes, that depend on some of its basic parameters (like the mass, the distance, etc). Some these parameters are hard to measure directly. Thus, we will use the correlations mentioned above as an indirect method to estimate these parameters. Contact: Elmar Koerding

Simulated observations of stellar populations and star clusters with Extremely Large Telescopes

The next generation of extremely large optical telescopes (ELTs) will be equipped with powerful adaptive optics systems. These will provide extremely sharp images of distant galaxies. The aim of this project is to simulate such observations by generating artificial images resembling those that will be produced by the ELTs. These simulations will be used to quantify the limits at which individual stars can be identified and studied.
Contact: Søren Larsen

The population of supernovae in galaxies

Massive stars explode at the end of their lives as supernovae. If the star is part of a binary system, its hydrogen envelope may be lost to its companion, giving rise to a different type of supernovae. The numbers and fractions of different supernovae can be used to test the evolution of massive binaries. The student will simulate different galaxies and compare the observed supernova rates to the models.
Contact: Gijs Nelemans

Unveiling the formation process of the most massive stars with radio interferometry

O-type stars (massive stars with 20 solar masses or more) are prominent in the ecology of the interstellar medium and the evolution of galaxies, but their formation mechanism is still uncertain. Direct imaging on scales of hundreds of AU is critical to unveil the physics at work in the innermost reaches around massive protostars and to test theoretical models via comparison with observations, but the latter are limited by high extinction, clustering, and large distances. Radio interferometry is the technique to make high-angular resolution images of cosmic sources and in particular spectral line observations can provide unique information on kinematics, physical conditions, composition, and magnetic properties of the exciting gas. In the project, the student will learn the principles of interferometry, data calibration, imaging techniques, and spectral line analysis. He/she will have a choice to work on different spectral line datasets from different molecules (H2O, SiO, CH3OH, NH3) acquired with the largest existing radio-interferometers (JVLA, ALMA, VLBI) in a sample containing the most luminous high-mass star forming regions in the Galaxy.
Contact: Ciriaco Goddi

Example Master Projects

Collaboration of the Radboud University with the German Max Planck Gesellschaft has resulted in internship opportunities for Radboud students at one of the Max Planck Institutes, for a period of 6 to 12 months. Many of our staff members collaborate with colleagues at one of these institute. Be sure to ask for possibilities if you are interested in an internship in Germany.

The Bayesian Machine for Milky Way modeling

Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHERCs) are extremely relativistic particles coming from extragalactic space. Their exact sources are unknown (Active Galactic Nuclei? Jets? Gamma-ray bursts?), and their paths are deflected when they travel through the Milky Way's magnetic field to Earth. To correct for these deflections and figure out UHECR sources, a good model of the Milky Way's magnetic field is crucial. In an international collaboration, we are building a software framework based on Bayesian inference to address this question, in order to study possible UHECR sources and magnetic field configurations. One Masters student has started testing and using the initial Bayesian pipeline in Jan 2016. An other Masters project is available to solve particular parts of the remaining challenges (such as including random magnetic field components in the model) or adding different observational data sets. This project will involve international travel to collaborators. The student will learn about cosmic ray physics and cosmic magnetism, and he/she will acquire expertise in handling software (python) and Bayesian statistics.
Contact: Jörg Rachen, Marijke Haverkorn

Using LOFAR to detect Transient Phenomena

The LOFAR Cosmic Rays Key Science Project (CR KSP) aims to use LOFAR to detect a variety of transient phenomena, including energetic particles interacting with the Moon and in the Earth's atmosphere, pulsar giant pulses, lightning (on both Earth and Saturn), Solar and Jovian bursts, and unusual radio-frequency interference (RFI). We have a number of projects available related to these LOFAR transients, which can be computational, theoretical, and/or experimental in nature.
Contact: Heino Falcke

Measurement of the energy spectrum of primary cosmic rays with LORA

Recently, we finished the installation of an air shower detector in the core of the LOFAR experiment, the LOFAR Radboud Air shower array. It is a set-up comprising 20 scintillator stations. Aim of the student project is to use the data taken with this experiment to derive the energy spectrum of primary cosmic rays.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Detection of radio emission from air showers with LOFAR

Objective of the LOFAR key science project cosmic rays is the detection of radio emission from air showers. For this purpose the read-out of the LOFAR antennas will be triggered by information from an air shower detector - LORA. Aim of the student project is to analyze the data taken with the radio antennas of the LOFAR telescope and to infer the properties of the radio emission from extensive air showers.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Investigation of solar activity with data from the Pierre Auger Observatory

With the surface detectors of the Pierre Auger Observatory the flux of muons is premanently monitored. These particles originate from low energy cosmic rays, they are modulated by the heliospheric magnetic fields. The measured rates will be analyzed on different time scales and will be correlated with data from the world-wide neutron monitor network.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Development of a cosmic-ray detector for a satellite

We plan to fly a small cosmic-ray detector on a mini satellite (CUBESAT). Aim of the student project is to develop and test a small instrument to measure cosmic rays. Goal of the project is to verify the correct operation of the detector with measurements of secondary cosmic rays at ground level.
Contact: Jörg Hörandel

Spectroscopic detection of multiple stellar populations in star clusters

It was once thought that globular star clusters are “simple stellar populations” consisting of stars with a single age and chemical composition. It is now clear that this is not the case: a variety of observations have convincingly demonstrated that the chemical abundances of individual stars can vary significantly from star to star. This is a big puzzle, because star clusters are believed to form in a single “burst” of star formation, out of a single gas cloud. Until now, however, the evidence for multiple stellar populations in star clusters is mainly based on observations in our own Galaxy, where the individual stars can be resolved. In this project, we will investigate whether it is possible to identify these variations in more distant clusters, where only the integrated light of all the stars can be observed. We will do this by computing model spectra of different clusters with known composition and then “analyse” these model spectra in the same way that one would analyse the spectrum of a real star cluster.
Contact: Søren Larsen

Globular clusters in the UVEX survey

In this project, observations from the UVEX survey of the Northern Galactic plane will be used to study multiple stellar populations in globular clusters. The U-band observations are well suited for identifying multiple stellar populations in the clusters and study their radial distributions, currently a “hot topic” as the origin of these multiple populations remains mysterious. In particular, the radial distributions of the different populations in some clusters appear to be different from those predicted by models, but only a small number of clusters have been studied in detail so far.
Contact: Søren Larsen and Paul Groot

Unveiling the formation process of the most massive stars with radio interferometry

O-type stars (massive stars with 20 solar masses or more) are prominent in the ecology of the interstellar medium and the evolution of galaxies, but their formation mechanism is still uncertain. Direct imaging on scales of hundreds of AU is critical to unveil the physics at work in the innermost reaches around massive protostars and to test theoretical models via comparison with observations, but the latter are limited by high extinction, clustering, and large distances. Radio interferometry is the technique to make high-angular resolution images of cosmic sources and in particular spectral line observations can provide unique information on kinematics, physical conditions, composition, and magnetic properties of the exciting gas. In the project, the student will learn the principles of interferometry, data calibration, imaging techniques, and spectral line analysis. He/she will have a choice to work on different spectral line datasets from different molecules (H2O, SiO, CH3OH, NH3) acquired with the largest existing radio-interferometers (JVLA, ALMA, VLBI) in a sample containing the most luminous high-mass star forming regions in the Galaxy.
Contact: Ciriaco Goddi

Discovering magnetic structures in the interstellar medium

Magnetic fields are the most elusive component of the interstellar medium of galaxies. Although they are crucial in e.g. cosmic ray acceleration, gas dynamics, or the early phases of star formation, much of their strength and structure remains unknown. There is no direct detection possible, so we resort to indirect techniques such as Faraday rotation measured through polarized radio emission.
The Westerbork Northern Sky Survey (WENSS) is an all-Northern-sky survey at the radio frequency of 327 MHz, published in 1997. It contains polarimetric data, which was never processed because there was no possibility to correct for the Faraday rotation in the ionosphere. However, recently ionospheric correction techniques have become available, opening up this large data set for polarimetric processing. We expect to find a multitude of complex magnetized structures, similar to a few of these structures published in literature.
In this project, a student will undertake polarimetric processing of (part of) the WENSS survey, including ionospheric Faraday rotation correction, and will investigate the magnetic structures that will emerge. This includes learning radio interferometry, polarimetry, and data processing (calibration and imaging). It will involve longer-period stays at the Dutch Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) to collaborate with WENSS-experts there.
Contact: Marijke Haverkorn