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Undergraduate Projects

16 Dec 2017

MSc/4th Year Research Projects in High Energy Particle Physics

In the 2012/13 session the HEP group will be running the projects described on this page. Below you can find details of the projects and for which courses (PHASM201, MSc) they are available. Please feel free to contact the supervisors directly to discuss the project.

Supervisors:Prof. Jon Butterworth, Dr Ben Waugh
Title:Modelling the highest energy collisions in the world
The student will use the Rivet software toolkit to compare data from particle colliders with the predictions of Monte Carlo models, and will contribute to Rivet by writing additional modules in C++. The project provides an opportunity to learn about current research in high-energy physics and would suit someone with experience in programming.
Supervisors:Dr Mario Campanelli, Dr Pauline Bernat
Title:The physics of jets at the Large Hadron Collider
Fully hadronic final states are among the most important research topics at the LHC (as the name also suggests), and the UCL group is one of the leading groups for these studies in the Atlas experiment. We can offer several projects (up to three students) on studies of jet properties, substructures, studies of the difference between quark-initiated and gluon-initiated jets. Some experience in coding is preferred.
Supervisors:Dr Gavin Hesketh
Title:Z+b at the LHC as a Higgs background and test of QCD
Following the discovery of a Higgs-like boson at the LHC, one of the main aims now is to observe the new particle in all expected decay modes, to confirm if it is really the Higgs Boson we expected. The main decay mode currently missing is when the Higgs decays to two heavy b-quarks. This project will be based on studies of the main background to this missing Higgs signal, Z+b production. Measurements in this channel are also an important test of QCD modeling, and an active area of theoretical interest. The project will involve running existing simulation programmes to compare different assumptions in the modeling of Z+b production, and investigating possible measurements which could discriminate between them. Some programming experience essential, this project will involve using C++/Linux to run existing simulation packages.
Supervisor:Prof. Mark Lancaster
Title:Measuring the Muon Magnetic Moment to 0.1 ppm
Supervisor:Dr Ryan Nichol
Title:Preventing terrorism using cosmic ray muons
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
Cosmic ray muon tomography is an imaging technique that utilises cosmic rays to create images of matter density. The CREAM TEA (Cosmic Ray Extensive Area Mapping for Terrorism Evasion Application) project proposes to utilise this technique to monitor large enclosed public spaces, such as train stations, for unusual dense objects, such as bombs.

This project will research the feasibility of the method using standard particle physics simulation and data analysis tools, GEANT and ROOT. The results of the simulation will be validated using data from the CREAM TEA scintillator test-stand.
Supervisor:Dr Ryan Nichol
Title:Neutrino fishing in Antarctica
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
There are several current and currently proposed experiments to utilise the Antarctic ice as a target medium for a gigantic ultra-high energy neutrino telescope. This project will simulate the sensitivity of the proposed ARIANNA experiment, which plans to deploy large numbers of semi-autonomous radio detectors across the Ross Ice Shelf to search for the elusive particles.

The simulation will be used to optimise the design for the full ARIANNA array, in terms of station arrangement, antenna specifications and trigger conditions. These findings will influence the choices made in the final design of the experiment, which will be deploying it's first prototype station to Antarctica this coming Austral summer.
Supervisor:Prof. Jenny Thomas
Title:Determining the mass hierarchy of the three fundamental neutrinos
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
Neutrino mass is the first concrete example of physics in contradiction to the Standard Model. There are two outstanding unknown characteristics of neutrinos, the mass ordering of the three neutrino flavours and the value of the CP violating phase. Non-zero CP violation in the neutrino sector could provide a mechanism for the matter-anti-matter asymmetry in the universe, and is therefore one of the most important and fundamental issues facing physics today. Presently, there are two experiments which could deliver these last. The two experiments will have to pool their knowledge to fully exploit their independent observations but this is not trivial, given uncertainties on the other measured values in the mixing matrix. The aim of this project is to produce a strategy for combining the information from the two experiments, taking into account all that is known about the mixing, and unknown from the uncertainties in the existing and future measurements, to reach the goal of measuring these two fundamental neutrino characteristics in the fastest possible time. During the course of this project you will learn root (the CERN base data analysis), c++ programming language and the state of the theoretical knowledge of the the neutrino sector
Supervisor:Prof. Robert Thorne
Title:Parton Distribution Functions and the LHC
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
The proton is made up out of a collection of quarks, antiquarks and gluons, collectively known as partons. The detailed description of this is in terms of parton distributions. When collisions occur at a high-energy particle collider (e.g. the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)) the interactions are effectively between the colliding partons. Hence, the results at particle colliders depend on the details of the parton distributions and in turn can be used to improve our knowledge of them, and implicitly of the strong force, Quantum ChromoDynamics (QCD). The project will examine how QCD and experimental data from particle colliders affects the parton distribution functions and influences predictions at the LHC.
Supervisor:Prof David Waters
Title:Searching for Lorentz Violation in Double-Beta Decay
The NEMO-3 experiment has one of the world's largest samples of double-beta decay events : nuclear transitions comprised of two simultaneous beta-decays taking place inside certain isotopes. Double-beta decay is a unique laboratory in which to test fundamental symmetries at nuclear energy scales. If Lorentz symmetry is violated, then the electron energy distributions from double-beta decay are modified in a distinctive way. The project will involve the analysis of data from NEMO-3 with a view to searching for, and placing limits on, Lorentz violation in double-beta decay.

This project will start with a literature survey to understand the basic physics of double-beta decay and the signature of Lorentz violation. Computer programs that simulate double-beta decay may need to be modified to incorporate Lorentz-violating effects. The core of the project will involve the analysis of NEMO-3 data in order to search for the effects of Lorentz-violation. Statistical techniques will need to be developed to set quantitative limits on the presence of Lorentz-violating effects.

This project will be computer based and the student will ideally be familiar with programming in C++ or similar language. Please speak to Prof. Waters for further details.
Supervisor:Prof. Matthew Wing
Title:Developing accelerators 1000 times more powerful than current machines
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
The electric fields in conventional accelerators are limited due to the breakdown under these high fields of the metal structures containing the beams. However, by firing a laser or particle beam into a plasma, electric fields 1000 times greater can be achieved, thereby leading to the possibility of future particle accelerators of significantly reduced length and cost, both for fundamental research and medical applications alike. This project will focus on the possibility of firing protons into a plasma in order to accelerate electrons, following in the "wakefield", to TeV energies.

UCL is involved in a demonstrator experiment to be hosted in CERN to verify this technique. We currently work in two areas, both or either of which could be pursued as a project. To understand the potential physics and design of the experiment, particle-in cell simulations are performed which tell us how the beam and plasma evolves as the beam passes through the plasma. Many parameters of the experiment still need to be optimised such as plasma length and denisty and beam energy and denisty. This will provide valuable computing skills, using UCL's supercomputer, as well as a deep understaing of the physics involved. The other aspect is the design and experimental work we are doing on developing diagnostic equipment so as to measure the characteristics of the beams and plasma. This will involve doing experiments and/or data analysis in order to determine the detailed structure of the plasma and its wakefield.

Both the physics simulation and diagnostic development will contribute to the realisation of the demonstrator experiment at CERN which will itself potentially lead to the next particle physics accelerator at the high-energy frontier.
Supervisor:Prof. Matthew Wing
Title:Visualising extreme states of matter and nanomaterials with the world's best cameras
Courses:PHASM201, MSc
The European X-ray Free Electron Laser (EuXFEL) being built in Hamburg, Germany, will be the brightest light source in the world. It will benefit many areas of science, from creating extreme states of matter in plasma physics, seeing chemical reactions and investigating new nanomaterials or the structure of large biomolecules such as proteins. An intense photon beam impacts on a sample and the diffractive pattern is seen in large, digital mega-pixel cameras, of which several different designs exist. This project will focus on understanding the physics of these relatively low energy (~10 keV) photons interacting with the silicon detectors and developing new models which can then be applicable for all processes independent of the camera used. This will include models of charge sharing in a semi-conductor and thermal noise estimation. The models developed will be based on fits to different data or phenomenological ideas. The work will involve coding these simulations into a software framework and comparison with data, including, possibly, brand new data from this year using prototype cameras inserted into a beamline in Hamburg. The results of this work will allow better imaging of the various samples to be probed at the future EuXFEL and hence provide a clearer view of the science. Such simulations and understanding of the underlying physics will be beneficial to other light sources as well as,potentially, astrophysics and medical imaging.