ULAB Physics and Astronomy

  • About

    About Us

    The Undergraduate Lab at Berkeley, Physics & Astronomy Division is a DeCal that aims to make the transition into undergraduate research as seamless as possible. We believe that research should be accessible to all undergrads within the Physics and Astronomy Departments despite significant barriers to entry for students traditionally underrepresented in academia or without a strong research background.

    Under the guidance of experienced undergraduate mentors and graduate/postdoc advisors, groups of mentees complete a year long research project on a topic of their interest. During this process, our staff will help mentees are able to make sense of the current literature, isolate a feasible project, and execute projects on a reasonable timescale. In addition, mentors serve as role-models to help demystify the research process.

    Our program, extends beyond project work. Students attend weekly workshops on essential research skills such as programming, statistics, etc. At the end of our program, students will have gained basic research skills often desired by research labs and will have demonstrated these skills in the process of completing a project of their own from start-to-finish.

    Contact us at physics@ulab.berkeley.edu with any questions or concerns!

    ULAB Physics & Astronomy CODE OF CONDUCT

  • Our Staff
    Yi Zhu
    Research Director
    Anmol Desai
    Lab Manager
    Rav Kaur
    Lab Manager
    Padma Venkatraman
    Curriculum Manager

    Past Members:

    Name Position Now
    Arjun Savel Director '19, Lab Manager '18 Astro gradaute student at UMD
    Aditya Sengupta Curriculum Chair '21, Mentor '20 Mathematics masters student at Cambridge
    Lawrence Edmond, IV Mentor '21 -
  • Mentees

    Mentee Information

    ULAB is a 2-semester DeCal sponsored by Prof. Dan Kasen. We meet Mon/Wed 7-8 PM in-person!

    Timeline: fall semester is dedicated to creating a research proposal. Students are split into groups of 3-5 and assigned a mentor. Together, mentors and groups will explore the required background in their area of interest during weekly group meetings. In the process of learning about the current techniques and experiments in their field, groups will devise a research project they wish to explore.

    Mentees return in the spring semester to implement their project! ULAB provides funding, space, and graduate/postdoc advisors to assist mentees during this process. The semester culminates in a poster session open to the physics and astronomy departments!

    In addition to weekly groups meetings, ULAB hosts weekly workshops with particular emphasis on Python and other basic research skills. The time commitment is roughly 2-3 hrs of in-person meetings and 2-3 hrs of individual work per week. Please see our syllabus for more detailed information!


    Q: What are the prerequisites for ULAB?
    None! Many students are first and seconds years with no prior research or programming experience.

    Q: I'm a junior/junior transfer/senior, should I apply?
    Definitely! Many upperclassmen have found ULAB helpful in obtaining research experience. However, ULAB may not be the right choice if you already feel prepared to join a lab or have very little time left at Berkeley.

    Q: How competitive is the program?
    We accept as many students as possible. In the event that space is limited, students that benefit most from our program have priority.

    Q: How are project topics choosen?
    Available topics are determined by out cohort of mentors and vary year by year. We are able to normally cover the major subfields in physics and astronomy. Mentees have a large say in the mentor/project they work on.

    Q: Can I apply to ULAB in addition to other research programs?
    Yes. Students that join ULAB, but are subsequently accepted into another program (e.g. URAP) may pursue both concurrently or drop ULAB before the drop deadline late September.

    Q: Do ULAB projects yeild results?
    Wrong question. ULAB is a research training organization. Through conducting their projects, mentees learn about the basic knowledge and skills required to conduct research in their field and leave our program a better candidate, and better prepared for research. (…but to answer the question, most projects do yield interesting results; and even when they don’t, mentees are able to explain their work and what they’ve learned).

  • Mentors

    Mentor Information

    Mentorship can be a very fruitful and rewarding experience for undergraduates with research experience. Mentors' primary job is to meet weekly with their group of 3-5 mentees during the year-long process of conducting an independent research project. Mentors will lead discussions on topics in their field and guide their group through their project.

    Mentorship is a unique learning opportunity. Mentors will expereince the process of leading a scientific project, conduct research in a topic of their interest, and interact with fellow undergraduate and graduate researchers. Mentors are generously supported by the Physics + Astronomy Berkeley Discover Initiative and will recieve $600/semester stipend*.

    *Stipends are disbursed as a department award and may affect your financial aid. In order to recieve stipends, mentors must fulfill all responsibilities of the position and remain an enrolled Berkeley student.


    Q: What is the committment?
    Mentorship is a 2-semester positions. Mentors meet with their groups 1-2 hrs/week and generally spend an additional 1-3 hours outside of in-person meetings. We require that mentors be available Wednesday 7-8 PM and enroll in 2 research units (Astron. 198).

    Q: How much research experience is expected?
    Mentors are not expected to be experts, but should be comfortable exploring their field. They must be prepared to help mentees learn about a new topic, and to learn about a new topic/project themselves. At least 1 semester of research in a group is recommended.

    Q: How are project topics choosen
    While some mentors have a clear project in mind, most mentors begin an idea of topics they would like to work on. They are paired with mentees with similar interests. Mentors and mentees together determine a suitable project. We are able to reasonably fund physical projects, simulations, etc.

  • Advisors

    Advisor Information

    Graduate students and postdocs interested in supporting ULAB's mission are encouraged to become project advisors. Advisors serve to ensure scientific rigor, help determine the practically and scope of a project, and give general guidance on the direction of a project. The advising role is flexible and low-commitment: about 3-5 hours per semester. The format of advising differs by the semester.

    Fall semester: during this time, groups research their areas of interest and devise a question they wish to explore. Advisors spend 1-2 hrs meeting with groups to discuss potential projects. Advisors will spend 1-2 hours reviewing project proposals that students have submitted.

    Spring semester: groups will have finalized their research project and began conducting their experiments. Advisors will check-in periodically with an individual group every 3-4 weeks.

    Opportunities for advisors are available year-round. Please reach out to us at physics@ulab.berkeley.edu

  • Projects

    Past Projects


    1. Numerical Spin Analysis of Relativistic Bondi Accretion in M87*
    2. Analyzing Anomalous Transport in Interplanetary Shocks Using a Mittag-Leffler Function
    3. Cosmic Ray Predictions With a Homemade Muon Detector
    4. Observing and Obtaining a Light Curve from a Potential Transiting Exoplanet
    5. Creating a Pipeline to Generate Radial Velocity Curves from Raw APF Spectral Data
    6. Simulating Scattering Processes in TGFs Using Monte Carlo Methods
    7. Determining the Verdet Coefficient of Olive Oil with Faraday Rotation
    8. Investigating Habitability in the Kepler-47 Binary System


    1. Measuring Cosmic Distances using Gravitational Waves
    2. Doppler Imaging of a Simulated Star
    3. Characterizing Exoplanet Habitability
    4. Categorizing Solar Flares with Machine Learning
    5. Determining Hubble's Constant From Time Delays in Lensed Quasars
    6. An Exploration into Experimental Particle Physics
    7. Modeling and Mapping Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes


    1. Computational Analysis of Mixing Layers in the Interstellar Medium
    2. Investigation on the Potential Origin of ‘Oumuamua
    3. Simulating the Antenna Response of Radio Interferometers
    4. Accessible Balloon RAdiometer-Detecting the Cosmic Microwave Background
    5. Period-Luminosity Analysis of Cepheid Variables
    6. Analyzing the Turnover Point in the Light Curve of the Neutron Star Binary Merger Event GW170817
    7. Physics of a Tokamak
    8. Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Methods via DNA Nanotechnology
    9. Relating Electromagnetic Waves to Light


    1. Implementation of Partial Quantum Search
    2. Determining Graphene Stacking via Raman Spectroscopy
    3. Angular and Altitude Dependence of Cosmic Ray Muons
    4. Monte Carlo Study of the Ising Model
    5. Interplanetary Radiation Harnessing Voltaic System
    6. An Analysis on the Distribution of the Hubble Parameter across the Sky
    7. Estimating the Mass of the Milky Way Galaxy
    8. Exoplanet Detections with Machine Learning
    9. Calibrating the Flux-Weighted Gravity-Luminosity Relation in Blue Supergiant Stars


    1. Determining the Habitability of Exoplanets
    2. Measuring the Spin of Rotating Black Holes
    3. Designing an Electromagnetic Shield to Block Secondary Cosmic Rays
    4. Study of Isotropic and Anisotropic Electrical Conductivity

  • Join!

    Join Us!

    ULAB Physics and Astronomy is a 2-semester DeCal. We meet Mon/Wed 7-8 PM. Mentee/Mentor applications open before the fall semester and close around the second week of the fall semester. Click on the tabs to learn about each position.

    Mentees: The mentee application for Fall 2022-Spring 2023 is open! HERE and the deadline is September 1st.

    Mentors: The mentor application for Fall 2022-Spring 2023 is open! HERE and will be considered on a rolling basis. Mentors will be supported by a $600/semester stipend. There are a number of additional staff postions: lab manager and lecturer. Interested candidates may apply at the same link.

    Graduate Students/Postdocs: Opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty to get involved are available year-round! Please reach out to us at physics@ulab.berkeley.edu