Wunderlich ’21: Physics Department

Chad Wunderlich ’21–I spent the summer as an intern with the Physics Department, working alongside Dr. Krause with theoretical physics research on dark matter wind forces and how to measure them. The study of dark matter wind force is a complicated topic that is not completely understood and rarely discussed at the undergraduate level. For this reason, most of my work at the beginning of the internship consisted of reading papers and listening to lectures, particularly from the DAMOP (Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics) online conference, in order to familiarize myself with key concepts and terminology. I then looked more closely at the experiments that other research groups had performed to determine new limits on the strength of dark matter forces. I took note of values, parameters, and equations used in these experiments, using them to make various calculations and plots. One of these plots was a mathematical simulation of a driven-damped harmonic oscillator. In other words, an oscillator that is pushed along by a force (presumably caused by dark matter), and whose motion is being damped at the same time. I began by creating a simulation in one dimension, then expanded to three dimensions, showing the motion of the oscillator in each dimension simultaneously. The plot is also adjustable based on its position on the earth. For example, if the experiment is being performed at a certain location, the initial conditions of the plot can be adjusted to match that location. The end goal was to determine, based on valuesfrom past experiments, a new theoretical limit on the strength of dark matter wind forces.

This internship through the Wabash College Physics Department was a rewarding experience, because it presented the opportunity to study a topic that I would not have otherwise encountered. Since I typically take interest in engineering and other applied fields, I might not have considered an internship in theoretical physics had Wabash not offered this
position. Through this experience, I not only expanded my knowledge of a new subject, but also my interests in physics as a whole.