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Postgraduate Opportunities

20 Dec 2014

UCL HEP Postgraduate Opportunities

UCL Student Profiles

adam_colliding_particles Adam Davison completed recently his PhD on the ATLAS experiment, preparing to search for the Higgs boson. Some of his exploits have been captured in a series of movies: Colliding Particles. Adam is now a postdoctoral researcher at UCL.


Simon Bevan Simon Bevan recently completed a Ph.D. investigating the possibility of detecting ultra-high energy cosmic ray neutrinos acoustically. In the photo on the left you can see him on a field-trip over a Scottish underwater hydrophone array, and in this animation you can see for yourself what might happen when one of these high-energy particles interacts in the water, producing an underwater acoustic shock-wave. Simon now works in the finance industry.


lily Lily Asquith also completed her PhD recently, working on the ATLAS experiment. In an event at the Science Museum, Lily explains why the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider was such an exciting - and safe - event. Lily is now a postdoctoral resercher at the Argonne National Laboratory in the USA.


Our Research

The Standard Model The Standard Model of particle physics has been very successful in explaining a wealth of data over the past 40 years. However, we know it is incomplete and many questions remain un-answered. In particular:

  • What generates the mass of particles and why do they take the values that they do?
  • What is the nature of the neutrino?
  • What is the nature of the strong force (QCD)?
  • What physics lies beyond the Standard Model? Do supersymmetric particles exist? Is Dark Matter detectable ? Can a grand unified theory be realised?
  • What are the origins and the properties of the highest energy cosmic rays?

The UCL high-energy physics group is a large group with over 70 members, including nearly 30 Ph.D. students. We have a diverse programme addressing these key questions and offer research degrees in the following areas:

  • Studies of Standard Model processes at the energy frontier and Properties of the Higgs Boson and Physics Beyond the Standard Model - analysis of data from the Large Hadron Collider. The excitement from the discovery by the ATLAS Experiment of what looks like the Higgs boson continues and the focus has shifted in determining the properties of the new boson and comparing them to the Standard Model predictions. The UCL group is heavily engaged in these studies, as well as leading measurements of key Standard Model processes. We are also leading analyses to search for new resonances with masses at the TeV scale or above, decaying to pairs of Higgs bosons or W/Z bosons, which are predicted in many theories beyond the Standard Model.
  • Neutrino Physics - the MINOS(+) experiment is seeking to elucidate the nature of neutrino oscillations, with an extension called MINOS+ planned for the future. The NEMO experiment is searching for neutrinoless double-beta decay, which is one of the few methods to directly determine the mass of the neutrino and to determine whether it is a Dirac or Majorana particle. The successor to NEMO, called SuperNEMO, is under construction, and UCL is leading the project, both in the UK and internationally.
  • Cosmic Ray Physics - the highest energy collisions occur not in man-made particle accelerators, but when extremely high-energy cosmic rays from outer space strike the Earth. The ANITA experiment is seeking to make the first observation of ultra-high energy cosmic ray neutrinos using radio antennas in a balloon over Antarctica. We also investigate novel techniques for the detection of such particles.
  • Dark Matter - The nature of the elusive dark matter, accounting for 85% of the mass of the Universe, remains unknown with no definitive first detection as yet. The LUX and LZ dark matter experiments will achieve world leading sensitivity in the direct search for WIMP dark matter, the favoured candidate, exploiting two-phase xenon targets. UCL is heavily engaged in both of these projects.
  • Muon Physics - Muons can probe physics beyond the SM through the observation of decay modes that are essentially zero in the SM or through discrepancies between very precise measurements of a fundamental quantity e.g. dipole moments and the SM prediction. At UCL we are pursuing both of these methods. We are involved in constructing the COMET experiment in J-PARC, Japan that will search for the neutrinoless conversion of a muon to an electron (in the field of a nucleus) and the g-2 experiment in Fermilab that will make a 0.14 part per million measurement of the muon's magnetic moment. A measurement that presently differs from the SM by over 3 standard deviations. Both of these experiments expect their first data in 2016.
  • Plasma Wakefield Acceleration - A new method for particle acceleration is being pursued at UCL which exploits the properties of a plasma to generate electric fields 1,000 times greater than conventional machines. The AWAKE Collaboration is pursuing a proof-of-principle experiment at CERN using high-energy protons to generate the "wakefield" and accelerate a witness beam of electrons. UCL is one of the lead institutes in the project and is responsible for the spectrometer to measure the increase in electron energy. The result of this experiment could lead to future particle accelerators an order of magnitude shorter in length.
  • Proton Therapy - UCLH is to host one of two new Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) centres in the UK. PBT uses protons in place of X-rays to provide more accurate radiotherapy with fewer risks of side effects. The technology uses for proton acceleration and delivery in PBT is a direct evolution of accelerators developed for high energy physics research. To support the new treatment centre at UCLH, a number of research areas are being explored in collaboration with the UCL Dept. of Medical Physics. These include new detector systems for Proton Radiography and Proton CT, proton and neutron dosimetry and accelerator modelling to enhance patient throughput and treatment quality. In particular, a collaboration exists with the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and NPL to develop a proton calorimeter for a proton CT system based on technology from the SuperNEMO calorimeter.
  • QCD phenomenology - published data from HERA and the Tevatron is being analysed to provide a precise QCD framework for physics at the LHC and beyond. This includes the determination of parton distribution functions and higher order corrections which will be vital for any discovery at the LHC. We are also leading the development of next-to-leading order Monte Carlo generators, such as POWHEG, which are key tools for the studies at the LHC.
  • BSM Phenomenology - We explore new theories that go beyond the current Standard Model of particle physics, in light of the latest experimental results from the LHC, searches for rare decays and a host of other observations. These data are used to constrain BSM paradigms, like Supersymmetry or Grand Unification, which attempt to address open questions such as the nature of Dark Matter. In doing so, we put a special focus on the properties of neutrinos as they are the least understood matter particles.

Further details of the group's activities can be found from the various experiment pages on our website.

Positions Available

This broad programme provides a rich variety of M.Sc. and Ph.D. research topics, ranging from theoretical work and data analysis through to R&D into future experiments, and presents the opportunity for students to develop a wide range of skills.

Advanced High Energy Physics M.Sc.

UCL offers a unique Masters degree course with a focus on High Energy Physics. Details can be found on the main Physics Department web page.

Ph.Ds in Particle Physics

We welcome applications for Ph.Ds commencing in October 2014. Studentships are generally offered between January and May, and we expect to hold the first interviews in the week of 17th February 2014. The earlier you contact us, the better your chances. Details of how to apply and who to contact can be found on our Ph.D Applications page.

Next Steps

We welcome applications in any of these areas. Details of how to apply and who to contact can be found on our Ph.D Applications page. Please note that it's very important to consider how your postgraduate studies will be funded.