Nathaniel Rodriguez

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki


I am a physics major at the University of Redlands, which is a small liberal arts college located in southern California about an hour from Los Angeles. I am a junior now and will be moving on to my last year after this summer.

My choice to pursue physics is rooted in my intense curiosity in trying to understand the universe at its most fundamental level, and figure out how things fit together in the bigger picture of the cosmos. However this does not limit my passion to physics alone; I love history and philosophy as well. I enjoy reading any book about history I can get my hands on, especially those involving Roman and ancient Chinese history. I also thoroughly enjoy having philosophical discussions about important or fundamental questions.

Outside of academia, my hobbies include programming and gamming (in particular Starcraft (or anything from Blizzard)). If it has something to do with a computer, I will probably find it enjoyable. I have worked as a techy in the past and like tinkering with computers both on the hardware and software side.

After I graduate, I plan on going to graduate school. I have not yet decided what area of physics I will specialize in. It will probably be either astronomy or something related to complex systems. My summer here will essentially decide it for me. If I like this kind of interdisciplinary work I will probably chose it over astronomy, if not, then I will pick astronomy, which I enjoy a lot.

Past Research

Before SFI I participated in two other research programs: one at my own university, and another at the University of California, Davis.

At Redlands I worked with one of my professors, Dr. Rathbun, on Europa, which is one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. The moon is expected to have a sub-surface ocean, but there has been no direct evidence supporting it. We used thermal data from the Galileo spacecraft to place constraints on the size of possible "hot spots" -- areas that emit more heat than normal -- and we also mapped out the thermal inertia and bolometric albedo for most of the surface. The research was done to aid future spacecraft missions to Europa.

At Davis I worked with a research scientist, Dr. Richter, on Transiting Extra-solar planets. These are planets in other solar-systems whose orbits cause them to pass between their parent star and us. We can detect changes in emitted light from the system by the transit and can learn a great deal about the planet. We were tasked with showing that we could observe the secondary transit (when it is behind the star) in the near-infrared from the ground. We did this and are going to get actual observations from a telescope in late June and early July.

SFI Research

At SFI I will be working with Dr. Bettencourt on work relating to universal scaling laws in relation to urban centers. I will be working toward describing and modeling data that has been collected.

Research Abstract

Mentor: Louis Bettencourt

Many characteristics of cities like income, wealth creation, and crime, scale with population size according to universal scaling laws. While these laws are a good description of the general trends in these urban indicators, there are underlying structures in the dynamics of cities, such as spacial and clustering correlations and the propensity of a city to consistently over or under-perform in specific indicators over long periods of time. We will be exploring these underlying structures in an attempt to better understand urban dynamics at different scales as a tool to better urban policies, which can be tailored to specific cities.