Project Info

measuring microscopic dynamics by counting the fluctuations

Brennan Sprinkle

Project Goals and Description:

We study the microscopic world not just because it’s interesting in it’s own right, but because we hope that an understanding of how the smallest pieces fit together will give us a deeper insight into our own macroscopic world. Simple liquids made of micro-scale spherical particles suspended in water can help us understand a surprisingly vast suite of microscopic systems – just to name a few: the fluid properties of milk, the formation (and melting) of crystals, the transport of ions through cellular pores, the flow of contaminated water through porous media. Still, when we try to look at simple liquids in a microscope, often the data we get is just a series of noisy, 2D images that only represent a small fraction of the entire system. How can we get any measurements out of this? This project is about measuring dynamics properties of simple liquids using this one weird trick (*not clickbait*) – counting. By counting particles in microscope images and measuring how the counts fluctuate in time, my collaborators and I have developed a robust tool to measure the typical quantities that are used to characterize simple liquids (e.g diffusion coefficients, correlation functions, …). I need help exploring the limits of this technology – e.g finding new systems where it may beat the current state of the art, finding systems where counting might not work so well as a measurement tool.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Provide access to clean water.
The basic background for this project is just a basic understanding of Brownian motion  

Primary Contacts:

Brennan Sprinkle,

Student Preparation


Any lab experience, particularly with microscopy would be a major plus as well as some programming/data analysis background in e.g c++,python, ...


3-5 hours per week


The student will gain a great deal of experience working with/analyzing real and simulated data, as well as experience designing and running their own simulations of stochastic (random) systems. Further, since the project is fundamentally exploratory the student will hone both their research skills and scientific acumen.


I will guide the student through some of the basic mathematical background for the first week/two weeks, including some basic programming/simulations of Brownian motion. After the student has become more familiarized with the problem and the tools we use, I will give them a mini-project to rewrite/speed up some basic analysis code that I've drafted. Following this, we will move on to investigating more complicated systems with the tools we've developed, by modifying the simulation code - and/or looking for more interesting experimental data sets withing the mines research community.


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