Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Physics and Astronomy Waves in Nuclear Dynamics and Cold Atoms: Computational Many-Body Physics

Theme: Phonons and Shockwaves

Apply Here!

Waves in Nuclear Dynamics and Cold Atoms

Computational Many-Body Physics

Supervisor: Michael Forbes


  1. Phonons and Shockwaves in Matter
  2. Wavefunctions in Quantum Materials

Many aspects of nuclear physics, astrophysics (neutron stars), and cold atomic superfluids can be described with the similar (universal) many-body dynamics. This allows one to study many different systems with similar techniques, and to apply results from one field to problems in another. The current challenge is to solve the many-body problem: to calculate macroscopic properties – e.q. vortex dynamics in neutron stars1 and in cold atoms2,3, shock-waves in colliding atomic clouds, cold-atoms in optical traps and lattices4, and quantum turbulence5 – from a microscopic description of the system (force between particles).

An REU student could contribute in several areas developing tools for applying density functional theory (DFT) to systems of cold atoms, and neutron matter. Projects could include:

  1. Developing parallel and GPU based simulations for studying real-time dynamics of superfluids.
  2. Designing and analyzing simulations of cold atom experiments and neutron star crusts, comparing results with experiments and Monte Carlo simulations to validate and improve the density functional techniques.
  3. Develop educational and outreach applications using the Super-Hydro superfluid explorer application to allow researchers and the public interact with superfluids.

Students will gain experience developing and working with numerical simulations using various high-performance computing platforms – skills that can be
leveraged to solve realistic problems in many different fields.  Based on interest, students will also gain experience with different aspects of many-body
physics, providing good preparation for further studies in nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, particle physics, and fluid dynamics.

Students should have a strong background in mathematics, and some experience with quantum mechanics and programming (Python, Javascript, C/C++, and CUDA will be used, but prior experience with these languages is not required).  Actual projects will be tailored to the student’s experience and interests.

Undergraduate Research

Prof. Michael McNeil Forbes has been working with undergraduate students for almost a decade.  He previously supervised REU student
Michelle Kelley at UW in 2013 on a similar topic resulting in the high-profile publication2.  Michelle won the “Outstanding Poster Presentation” award at at the Undergraduate Women in Physics conference for her poster about this work.  He co-supervised undergraduate Dake Zhou who is now a graduate student at UW on work resulting in a paper about using gravitational waves to constrain nuclear physics6.  He supervised a high-school student Dmitri Saberi through completion of his M.Sc. degree who is now at Stanford.  Additional work with undergraduates include supervision of three Senior Thesis projects, and the development of a superfluid hydrodynamic explorer application with the support of NSF grant PHY-1707691.  Prof. Forbes is committed to improving undergraduate education, regularly applying innovative teaching strategies in his courses, including PER supported strategies such as Active Learning, Just-in-Time Teaching, and bringing numerical analysis and programming to the classroom.  He currently leads the WSU Quantum Initiative and sits on the department’s Undergraduate Studies committee.

  1. G. Wlazłowski, K. Sekizawa, P. Magierski, A. Bulgac, and M. M. Forbes
    “Vortex pinning and dynamics in the neutron star crust.”
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 117 (2016) 232701 [arXiv:1606.04847].
  2. A. Bulgac, M. M. Forbes, M. M. Kelley, K. J. Roche, and G. Wlazłowski
    “Quantized Superfluid Vortex Rings in the Unitary Fermi Gas”
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 112 (2014) 025301 [arXiv:1306.4266].
  3. G. Wlazłowski, A. Bulgac, M. M. Forbes, and K. J. Roche
    “Life Cycle of Superfluid Vortices and Quantum Turbulence in
    the Unitary Fermi Gas”

    Phys. Rev. A 91 (2015) 031602(R) [arXiv:1404.1038].
  4. M. A. Khamehchi, K. Hossain, M. E. Mossman, Y. Zhang, Th. Busch, M. M. Forbes, and P. Engels
    “Negative Mass Hydrodynamics in a Spin-Orbit–Coupled Bose-Einstein Condensate”
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 118 (2017) 155301 [arXiv:1612.04055].
  5. A. Bulgac, G. Wlazłowski, and M. M. Forbes
    “Towards Quantum Turbulence in Cold Atomic Fermionic Superfluids”
    J. Phys. B 50 (2017) 014001 [arXiv:1609.00363].
  6. M. M. Forbes, S. Bose, S. Reddy, D. Zhou, A. Mukherjee, and S. De
    “Constraining the neutron-matter equation of state with gravitational waves”
    Phys. Rev. D. 100 (2019) 083010 [arXiv:1904.04233]