Proposed projects


  • Quantitative spectroscopy with the iSPEX smartphone add-on

The iSPEX add-on for smartphones has been developed to enable citizen science measurements of atmospheric aerosol properties through polarimetric observations of the blue sky. The unique implementation of the iSPEX optics makes that it is also a spectrograph. It will be your job to calibrate the iSPEX add-on and the smartphone to enable quantitative spectroscopy, much in the same way as the calibration of major spectroscopic instruments at large telescopes. The end goal is to show the applicability of spectroscopic iSPEX measurements for a multitude of interesting applications; e.g. color measurements of lamps, paint, water, etc.
Supervisor: dr. Frans Snik

  • Integration of polarimetry with the vAPP coronograph

The vector Apodizing Phase Plate (vAPP) is a radically new type of coronagraph: it is a single glass plate that produces two broadband images of the same star with PSFs with dark holes on either side. It allows for extremely efficient direct-imaging detections of exoplanets. Several vAPP prototypes have been tested in the lab in Leiden and are now being implemented at large telescopes. But the vAPP can even be more powerful than it already is: because of the liquid crystal techniques and polarization tricks that it uses, it can also be a part of a polarimetric system to further increase the sensitivity for reflected light from exoplanets. You will explore the opportunities to integrate the vAPP with polarimetry, and you will make this new technique happen in the lab.
Supervisor: dr. Frans Snik & Gilles Otten, MSc

  • Design of a truly achromatic liquid crystal polarization modulator

For more information, please contact the supervisor by e-mail.
Supervisor: dr. Frans Snik

  •  Measurement of slit polarization and comparison with theory

A spectrograph slit creates a certain amount of polarization. To be able to predict this instrumental polarization from a slit, a model based on waveguide theory has been established. This model can be extended to also cover other diffractive polarization effects.
The student will measure the slit polarization for a range of slit widths and wavelengths. These measurements are then compared to the models.
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Christoph Keller

  • Optimal corograph design for exoplanet characterization

Current approaches to designing corographs do not necessarily find the optimum instrument configuration that works at an actual telescope. In this project, a general code will be developed based on simulated annealing or genetic optimization to automatically find the optimum coronagraph for a given telescope and science target.
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Christoph Keller

  • Detecting Water Vapor Turbulence for mid-IR observations

METIS, which will be one of the first instruments on the 39-meter European Extremely Large Telescope, will be the only instrument able to deliver diffraction limited images in the mid-IR range,  mainly because Adaptive Optics is much easier than for other instruments.  One of the remaining challenges is that the image quality of METIS might ultimately be determined by variations in the composition of the atmosphere, i.e., the amount of water and CO2 and other trace gasses.  Your job, should you accept it, is to determine as accurately as possible the impact of composition changes on the performance of METIS and try to find ways to mitigate its effects.
Supervisor: dr. Remco Stuik

  • Characterization of different ice constituents

Dust grains in space are coated by several tens of layers of ice. In the Sackler Laboratory such interstellar ices can be simulated and within this minor project it is your task to spectroscopically characterize the different ice constituents. The data are used to compare with astronomical observations.
You do not need an experimental background for this project. You will receive an intense laboratory training and after 2-3 weeks you are supposed to record spectra with your own setup.
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
See also Sackler Lab

  • Spectroscopic experiments on supersonically expanding plasma

Diffuse interstellar band features are absorption bands observed in star light crossing translucent clouds. The molecular origin of these bands is unknown. A new setup to search for eventual carriers has been recently constructed and within this major project it is your task (under guidance of a postdoc and/or PhD student) to perform spectroscopic experiments on supersonically expanding plasma, simulating the harsh conditions in space.
Some experience with physical equipment will be a clear advantage for this project.
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
See also Sackler Lab

  • Leiden Database for Ice (LDI)

You don’t like laboratory work, but you like to link laboratory data to databases. Then this is the right project for you. For more than 20 years the Sackler laboratory is recording spectra of interstellar ice, and these data are public, but hard to get, given the rather poor status the LDI (Leiden Database for Ice) is in. You need programming skills, as well as spectroscopic knowledge of solid state features. You are able to fit spectra and to translate fits in fundamental parameters. This is a challenging project !
Supervisor: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz
See also Sackler Lab














MSc Specialisation at Leiden University, the Netherlands