At Caltech, I spent my first year working through tons of homework assigments from astrophysics and physics courses. Now that I've finished the courses, I'm free to work on different projects along with some TA responsibilities.
Before joining Caltech, I did my undergraduate studies in Engineering Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. During the 4 years at IIT, I studied physics, instrumentation and electronics with a special emphasis on optics, image processing and similar topics.
In collaboration with IUCAA, we are developing a low-cost, replicable robotic adaptive optics (AO) imaging system for 1-2 m class telescopes with a rayleigh laser beacon. It'll provide about 0.2" FWHM correction in visible and NIR.
The primary purpose of the robotic system is to provide a highly efficient AO facility for large scale surveys and transient monitoring and followup. With a queued scheduling, it can optimize its observing strategy to provide a large throughput.
Robo-AO will have a one month demonstration run on the Palomar 60" telescope in the spring of 2011. During the demonstration period, we plan to perform a large imaging survey of nearby M-dwarf stars to look for companions, a survey of lensed quasars, an astrometric survey for larger M-dwarfs for Jupiter mass companions and characterization of transients detected by the Palomar Transient Factory.
Cahill Rooftop Observatory
I'm working with my colleagues Krzysztof Findeisen and Varun Bhalerao to setup a small observatory on the roof of the department building for teaching and amateur observing. It largely uses parts from the old Robinson Dome Rooftop Observatory which had to be closed when the department shifted into its new quarters, the Cahill Center.
We have multiple telescopes for use by the Caltech community, from 50 mm Galileoscopes to computer controlled 14" Schmidt Cassegrain. At this moment, we're refurbishing, repairing and cleaning old equipment which is still usable and ordering new equipment to modernise the setup.
We're currently looking for input on cleaning an alumnized spectrograph grating cut on some extremely heavy metal or alloy (lead?). The coating has oxidized and needs to be removed, preferably without damaging the grating cut on the substrate. If you have any inputs on this, please drop me a line.
Under the guidance of James Lamb, I've been designing a cryogenic blackbody calibration source for microwave receivers used at CARMA. It is used as source of known intensity and hence a known radiation temperature to be placed infront of the feedhorn.
At this point, the major design and simulation work is complete and it is currently waiting for fabrication and testing.
10 GHz mode-locked fiber laser
With Prof. Vijaya and Dr. Venkitesh of IIT Bombay Physics Department, I worked on the development and simulation of a 10 GHz mode-locked fiber laser at 1.5 microns. Using a low-cost Gunn oscillator as a microwave source, we demonstrated highly stable mode-locking in an erbium doped fiber laser.
We demonstrated the formation of 18 ps pulses in the laser. In the second stage, we shortened the pulse width using nonlinear properties of glass. I simulated the entire laser taking into account the effect of nonlinearity and dispersion and validated the results.
Apart from these, I worked in IR polarimetry during a stint as an intern at ESO, radio astronomy at GMRT and RAC, optical spectroscopy at IIA and quasi-soft X-ray sources at the Harvard CfAO.