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Undergraduate Researchers

David Rivas

David Rivas, Physics

“Determining the Multiwavelength Emission from Extragalactic Relativistic Jets in the Early Stages of the Universe”

The goal of this research is to calculate the multiwavelength, radio to Gamma-ray, emission of relativistic jets emanating from the supermassive black holes found at the center of active galaxies (quasars), at the early stages of the Universe. According to recent X-ray observations of nearby large scale extragalactic radio jets (lengths of up to a hundred times the size of the host galaxy), the speed of the flow of these jets is relativistic, reaching more than 99 percent the speed of light. Recent theoretical work by the group of Dr. Georganopoulos shows that such jets in the early stages of our Universe decelerate due to their interaction with the, previously much denser, cosmic microwave background radiation. To understand the physical conditions of these jets, it is necessary to determine the muliwavelength radiation such decelerating jets produce. The focus of this research is to calculate, both analytically and numerically, the emission anticipated from the relevant radiation processes of these jets such as synchrotron and inverse-Compton emission. This will provide the tools for a comparison of the calculated to the observed spectra and will help us obtain a greater understanding of the physical conditions in these jets.

How did you find your mentor for year research project?

Last semester I decided that I wanted to do research and asked some people in my department about how to get started. I was directed to the astrophysics department and there I found one of the professors that I had taken a couple of courses with. Because I had taken classes that were relevant to the research subject that we would be doing, it seemed like a good fit.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I always enjoyed astronomy and I had also found that I liked the astrophysics course that I had taken last semester. The subject seemed to be very interesting and something that would give me a better idea of what working in the astrophysics field would be like.

Is this your first independent research project?

Yes, it is. It seems like something that is a great experience and perhaps something that I would have wanted to do more of if I could.

Do you get course credit for this work?

Yes, we placed the research for this semester under a category of a three-credit senior research 499 course. This will help me to fulfill the credit requirements for upper-level classes needed to graduate.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?

My mentor told me about URA. A researcher of his had previously been accepted as a URA scholar and he suggested that I apply as well.

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?

I had transferred from community colleges after deciding that I wanted to do physics. I then took all of the required courses in my major as well as a few electives before applying for the URA.

Was the application difficult to do?

It could have been fairly difficult due to the fact that it was hard to know many details of the subject that the research was going to be about prior to actually starting. With the help of my mentor it was not too hard, however.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

All of it is fairly challenging but enjoyable also. The theory is not very simple and it can be hard to understand how a quantitative analysis of a process is formulated based on a qualitative idea of the physical processes involved.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

The information and knowledge obtained from my classes is fundamental in the research that I am conducting. Also, as a result of the research requiring a large amount of in-depth topics, the knowledge gained will help me in future classes.

What are your career goals?

Hopefully I will find something related to what I have been studying and perhaps to what I have been researching. I am not certain about the exact area I want to go into but doing this research will help me decide.

Did you transfer to UMBC from another institution? Where?

I spent a little time taking classes at community colleges in the area before I decided that physics was the subject that I wanted to pursue.