Office of Undergraduate Research

Dhruv Tandon '22

OUR Featured Researcher: Dhruv Tandon '22

Portrait of Dhruv Tandon.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Dhruv Tandon (he/him) is a Oberlin College Research Fellow (OCRF) majoring in Physics.  He conducts research in Professor Jason Stalnaker's Lab. His project is titled “Excess Power Axion Star Search for GNOME". 

Please describe your project: 

This research is driven through the theoretical framework that dark matter exists as large cosmological structures in our universe, and it is possible to detect their interactions with ordinary matter. As a part of the Global Network of Optical Magnetometers for Exotic physics (GNOME) collaboration our goal is to look for these dark matter interactions using a network of highly sensitive magnetometers spread across the globe. I am working on analysing the magnetic field data that the GNOME network has collected during the latest science run. The analysis method utilizes the excess power technique that provides an optimal search method for the unknown dark matter signal.

Why is your research important?

This research addresses one of the key questions about our universe and its composition. Only 15% of the universe is made of particles we know about and the remaining 85% is something we call dark matter. Several experiments have confirmed the existence of dark matter in our universe. However, we still have not been able to detect it directly and don't know what it is made of. By analyzing our data, we can put new constraints on the possible dark matter candidates. With successful implementation of the project, we will unveil another layer of mysteries in the vast unknown area of dark matter searches.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I have co-presented posters at the 2019 and the 2020 APS Division of Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) conferences. I have also presented my research at physics majors talks. I am a co-author on a paper submitted for publication.

How did you get involved in research?

I reached out to professor Stalnaker during my first year winter term. The physics student community at Oberlin encouraged me to reach out to the professors for research opportunities. Following that, in my second year I applied to the Oberlin College Research Fellowship to continue the research full time over the summer.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

My favorite part of working on data analysis is definitely getting the results. It is easy to get lost in the coding part but extracting physical constraints from raw data and seeing that the results match the hypothesis is pretty satisfying.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?

Professor Stalnaker has provided me with opportunities to work on several different projects. He has supported me through each and every step of my research process. His trust and patience has allowed me to learn from my mistakes and gain self-confidence. Honestly, he has been the best mentor I could have asked for.

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

Being involved in research has been a very important part of my Oberlin experience. It has helped me discover that research is something that I would like to pursue a career in. It has also helped to build a network of supportive and inspiring people working in my field.

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

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. People are working on some really amazing projects on campus. So if something interests you, just talk to the professor and ask how you might get involved.