Undergraduate Research

Iago Braz Mendes '24

OUR Featured Researcher: Iago Braz Mendes '24
Photo Credit: Jacob Strauss
Photo credit: Jacob Strauss

Iago Braz Mendes (he/him) is majoring in Computer Science and Physics. He is conducting mentored research under Professor Robert Owen. His project is titled “Numerical solution of differential equations for analyzing black hole event horizons". 

Please describe your project: 

Our project attempts to create a solver capable of numerically computing the solution to a system of nonlinear partial differential equations (PDEs). Our long-term goal is to solve the embedding problem of a black hole horizon in Euclidean space (meaning that we want to describe black hole horizons using the usual 3D coordinates) efficiently. Knowing that the PDEs involved in this problem are strongly nonlinear and nonstandard, we have used simple models of varying complexity to approximate the embedding conditions at each version. We have also been trying to approach the problem from a different perspective in order to avoid nonlinearity. Our success with the first approach so far has been limited, and we are focusing on the second approach.

 A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

In order to describe black hole horizons in 3D space, we need a solver capable of handling a system of nonlinear partial differential equations efficiently. My research project involves creating that solver.


Why is your research important?

Once we solve the embedding problem for black hole horizons efficiently, we will be able to compute the mass and energy during a collision of black holes, which has never been done before.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

As the main work involves coding, most of my research happens individually on my laptop. Be as it may, I have weekly meetings with my mentor in which we talk about the results we had since our previous meeting and the next steps.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I presented in the Oberlin College Research Symposium that happened in the Spring of 2022. Additionally, we are hoping to publish a paper by the end of this academic year.

How did you get involved in research?

I am a STRONG (Science and Technology Research Opportunities for a New Generation) scholar, and this program matches students with a mentor with whom they can do research. Once I had my first physics class with professor Owen, I realized that I would like to do research with him, so I reached out asking if he would like to be my advisor and research mentor.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process? What is your favorite part about engaging in this work?

My favorite aspect of our research is that we are attempting to solve physics problems with code. Personally, this means that I can use both of my majors to work on the project.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

My experience working with my research mentor has been enlightening and efficient. With our weekly meetings, we are able to continuously advance in our research and to work on problems together. His support has helped me grow as a researcher and get better at it.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development? 

My research has benefited me in several ways. Academically, it has helped me understand that I enjoy doing research, especially when it combines both of my majors. Professionally, it has given me an opportunity to improve my technical skills and to understand topics that would normally be presented to me only during graduate school.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

The first steps to get into research are reaching out to professors, asking about their research and demonstrating interest. Even though it may be challenging to take these first steps, the professors need to know you more than just from classes and know that you would like to do research. I believe most students would be surprised with how approachable professors tend to be at Oberlin if you put in the effort.