Summer Centered: Sam Ditkovsky '20 Explores the Cosmos
The astrophysics major is studying a cosmological phenomenon known as isocurvature perturbations.
For Sam Ditkovsky ’20, deciphering the mysteries of the universe is just another day at the office. As a part of the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center’s Summer Scholars program, the astrophysics major has spent his break researching cosmology, first at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute then finishing up back on Haverford’s campus.
Ditkovsky’s particular area of focus is a phenomenon known as an isocurvature perturbation. He explains that these are cosmic disturbances caused by an alteration in the ratio of the particles that comprise the fabric of the universe.
“We can predict how these disturbances influence our astrophysical observations today,” he said. “My job is to predict how well we will be able to constrain the amount of this type of disturbance with future experiments.”
To explore the potential implications of this occurrence, Ditkovsky synthesizes findings from previous academic studies with the results of tests run by his computer models. Though this research has thrown the rising senior into the great unknown, he’s happy to be there.
“I was first attracted to a research project in cosmology because of the big questions that cosmologists seek to answer about the universe,” he said. “I find it incredible that we can learn so much about the nature of the universe just by looking, if you know what to look for.”
Ditkovsky’s work hasn’t only encouraged him to explore fresh ideas, it also brought him to a new city. The first segment of the Connecticut native’s research was conducted north of the border, in a new city for him.
“[In Toronto,] I was able to expand my project and approach the same question from a different angle,” he said. “And even though I was working on an individual project, I was able to work day-to-day with graduate and undergraduate students at Dunlap.”
His stint in Toronto has proved educational in more ways than one. The experience exposed Ditkovsky to the graduate-level environment he plans to head towards following his graduation next spring.
“It is a very different experience researching in a department at a big research university as opposed to a department at a small liberal arts college,” he said. “I think that I got a good look at what doing graduate research is like, and am excited to apply to graduate programs in the fall.”
Before he can head off to graduate school, however, Ditkovsky hopes to perfect his current project over the coming semester.
“My advisor [Assistant Professor Daniel Grin] and I hope to write and submit a paper for review in the fall. If all goes well, this could be my first academic publication,” he said. “This would be a very exciting milestone to cap off my undergraduate career, but there’s still plenty of work to do before we can make this happen.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.