Thesis Student Supervision
I have supervised the following students for PHY 4410U/4420U Physics Thesis Project I/II. In all cases except where noted, I was responsible for guiding the student towards a thesis topic (or giving one outright), setting the overall goals of the research, conducting regular meetings, and general supervision and guidance towards performing original research at the undergraduate level.
- Matthew VandeSande, The Interaction between Supermassive Black Holes and Dark Matter Halos
, April 2014.
Although we had originally discussed a project in the field of medical physics (not exactly my field), we finally settled on a topic involving both dark matter halos and super massive black holes. Matthew started with a comprehensive literature search -- mostly coming up empty on simulations involving the two topics. So we did our own, modifying some software I used in my Ph.D. research. The N-body simulations were pretty big (millions of particles) and the results show promise; the black hole does seem to have a noticeable effect on the halo density profile.
Matthew is now a graduate student at UOIT.
- Graham Clendenning, Comparisons of Energy Loss in Quantum and Classical Harmonic Oscillators, April 2013.
Graham came to me with a general idea he wanted to pursue, in the area of quantum mechanics. Although not my area of expertise, we were able to find a very suitable topic (with Graham essentially doing the initial research and choosing a specialized area himself). During the course of the research, we identified an error in an article published in the American Journal of Physics; although it was a technically small error, our belief was that this error would mislead the reader into making a conclusion that was not really true. We wrote a short comment on the paper and submitted to the same journal; unfortunately, after much back and forth with the article¢s original authors and the editor of the journal, the submission was ultimately rejected, as the error was deemed too small to justify a published comment.
Graham is now a graduate student at UOIT.
- Chris McFadden, Modified Newtonian Dynamics: a Spherical Collapse, April 2012.
When Chris approached me about working together, I suggested he read a book a had recently read: The Trouble with Physics, by Lee Smolin. The book discusses a possible alternative to dark matter (Modified Newtonian Dynamics), and Chris agreed that the topic was interesting. His research included building a numerical model for spherical collapse in this framework and comparing to the expectations of the standard dark matter paradigm. Although not ultimately far enough along to publish in a journal, the work was a good introduction to the subject (and has convinced me that dark matter is the better idea).
Chris graduated with his B.Sc. in 2012.
- Laura Henderson, The Role of the Radial Orbit Instability in the Formation of Dark Matter Halos, April 2011.
I suggested to Laura that we follow up on some work I had done during my doctoral studies; it included work in computational astrophysics and a particular instability I thought was responsible for the appearance of dark matter halos. Laura was a quick study and performed a number of simulations to examine the problem. Although a successful undergraduate thesis, I have not had time to follow up on her work and publish it.
Laura is currently pursuing her M.Sc. in Physics at the University of Waterloo.
- Jessica Fallone, Adiabatic Growth of Black Holes, April 2010 (secondary supervisor). Jessica and I developed a project which would combine some computational simulations of black hole growth with semi-analytical work I did for my M.Sc. thesis. The results were quite promising and deserve more time and work. This thesis was co-supervised with Dr. Rupinder Brar, although I set the research goals and topic and worked closely with Jessica through the year. Jessica is currently a graduate student at the University of Waterloo.
Summer Student Supervision
In summer 2013 I was awarded a Teaching Innovation Fund to design and build a series of first year physics lecture demonstrations. Part of the funds were used towards hiring a student for the summer to assist me (Elizabeth Selinger); I was also able to have a student employee through the University Summer Works program (Taylor O'Meara).
Supervision consisted of hands-on guidance of the students towards the final goal of having a set of demonstrations completed by the end of summer. The demonstrations are detailed here.