Potential Graduate Student Projects

ATLAS Projects

ATLAS upgrades, and searches for things beyond the Standard Model in ATLAS

Contact: Chris Lester
See also: Cambridge ATLAS homepage

The Higgs Boson discovery, while interesting, was really part of "old", very much expected physics. The ATLAS detector has, so far, found no traces of "new" physics: supersymmetric particles, extra dimensions, etc. Despite the lack of an "easy" discovery, these BSM (beyond standard model) theories are not completely ruled out. Nonetheless, they are finding it harder and harder to evade current experimental constraints, and the latest 13 TeV data are already making things worse. Given this situation, we cannot (as BSM phenomenologists) simply keep looking for the same old things -- especially while there are many other PhD students in other universities trying to chase the same particles. We must be adaptable. Simultaneously, Cambridge ATLAS is working on two separate upgrades to the ATLAS detector (one in the Semiconductor Tracker, one in the Calorimeter) that will need increasing support (manpower) over the next four years. Against this backdrop, I would prefer to find a student who has a dual interest in: (1) hardware, and (2) getting past the problems of the existing BSM searches. This would be a person who would be happy to involve themselves actively in the testing/commissioning and construction of parts of the upgrade programmes, but who would also have a fairly strong theoretical background, such they would be prepared to: (i) keep a close eye on theory developments in our weekly Cambridge SUSY Working group (a theory/experiment ideas exchange forum), and (ii) to try to think of new ways of searching for BSM effects that are outside the mainstream.

In order to become an ATLAS author, new collaboration members have to complete a technical project during their first year. Students will be able to work in a variety of areas, including software and simulation for the ATLAS Level-1 calorimeter upgrade , work on upgraded data-acquisition software for the next generation tracker. (back to top)

Studies of ZZ Production in ATLAS

Contact: Richard Batley
See also: Cambridge ATLAS homepage

A key process currently being intensively studied at the LHC is the production of gauge boson pairs (diboson production). Measurements of diboson production can be used to test the gauge structure of the Standard Model and to carry out indirect searches for new physics beyond the SM. Diboson measurements are also important in understanding backgrounds to other processes such as Higgs boson production.

The Cambridge group focuses on the production of ZZ pairs decaying to final states containing two leptons (electrons or muons) plus missing energy (neutrinos), ZZ->llnn, or containing four leptons, ZZ->4l. We are also studying the 4-lepton channel via the resonant production of single Z bosons, Z->4l, which serves as a testbed for the reconstruction of H->4l decays.

Analysis of the ATLAS data recorded in 2012 at a centre-of-mass energy of 8 TeV is now close to completion, and ATLAS is now taking data at the higher centre-of-mass energy of 13 TeV. The PhD project(s) would analyse ZZ and Z->4l production in this new energy regime using the large data sets expected to be recorded in 2015 and beyond. This should provide higher precision tests of the Standard Model, and greater sensitivity to new physics, than was possible with the 8 TeV data. (back to top)

LHCb Projects

Measurement of matter-antimatter asymmetries in B decays

Contact: Val Gibson
See also: Cambridge LHCb homepage

The fact that we live in a Universe made of matter (and no antimatter) is extremely puzzling since, during the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have been produced in equal amounts. The phenomenon responsible for matter-antimatter asymmetries is called CP violation, which is a well established observation and can be accommodated in a three generation Standard Model. However, the amount of CP violation observed is many orders of magnitude away from that required to produce the amount of matter in the Universe. Therefore physics beyond the Standard Model is required. The project will include the analysis of all the LHCb experiments data taken at the highest LHC centre-of-mass-energy in 2015 and beyond. The focus of the project will be to use either B->DK or Bc->DD decays to make a precision measurement of the CP phase - gamma - which is responsible for CP violation in the Standard Model and against which New Physics phenomena can be severely tested.

The project will suit someone who is keen to analyse LHC data. (back to top)

Search for New Physics beyond the Standard Model in rare B decays

Contact: Val Gibson
See also: Cambridge LHCb homepage

The Standard Model of particle physics is a well established monument. However, New Physics beyond the Standard Model is necessary to describe the mass hierarchy of fundamental particles. The LHCb experiment, running at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, is particularly well suited to look for indirect evidence of New Physics using quantum loop processes. These include rare decays, such as Bd,s->mumu and Bd → K0*mumu decays. The huge volume of data collected by LHCb allows for a precision measurements of the decay rates and angular observables, which measure the intimate properties of these decays. In turn, the measurements are used to constrain New Physics models. This indirect model independent approach is very powerful, and is crucial since New Physics still evades detection. The project includes the analysis of rare B hadron decays taken by the LHCb experiment at a centre-of-mass energy of 13 TeV from 2015 onwards.

The project will suit someone who is keen to analyse LHC data. (back to top)

Neutrino Physics Projects


Contact: Mark Thomson
See also: Cambridge MicroBooNE homepage

The MicroBooNE neutrino experiment at Fermilab in the US, started taking data in August 2015. MicroBooNE utilises a large Liquid Argon (LAr) time projection chamber (TPCs), which allows “photograph quality" images of the particle produced in neutrino interactions. The recorded events contain a wealth of information and Cambridge is playing a leading role in the automated computer reconstruction of these images using advanced pattern recognition software. MicroBooNE will run for 3-4 years and will search for sterile neutrinos, testing a number of previous claims for this potentially groundbreaking physics.

The PhD project is to work on the development of pattern recognition software for LAr TPC detectors and then apply this to MicroBooNE data. The full reconstruction chain will developed to go from the raw detector images to the detailed properties of the individual neutrino interactions. This reconstruction will then be used to make precise measurements of neutrino cross sections and to test the recent claims of the possible existence of sterile neutrinos. This project represents an exciting opportunity to work on the first large scale LAr detector in an intense neutrino beam. There will also be the opportunity to apply this experience to the DUNE project, which represents the long-term future of neutrino physics. (back to top)

Detector R&D Projects

Development of sensors and novel technologies for particle detection in HEP and beyond.

Contact: Stephen Wotton or Bart Hommels

Prospective students with a keen interest in hands-on practical work are invited to contact us to discuss possibilities in this area. The HEP group has a strong track record in the development of silicon sensors for tracking and single-photon position-sensitive devices for Ring Imaging Cherenkov (RICH) Detectors. Projects may include the development, refinement or upgrade of existing detectors such as these or may focus on the development of more speculative techniques for use in future experiments. Examples of current projects are the development of a RICH detector prototype using solid state sensors or the application of the ATLAS silicon tracking technology to areas beyond the field of High Energy Physics.

Although focussed on detector research and development, there would also be an opportunity to analyse data from running experiments or data taken at beam test facilities. (back to top)

Theory Projects

Theory Beyond the Standard Model at the Large Hadron Collider

Contact: Ben Gripaios

This project will focus on the development of candidate theories of new physics, going beyond the Standard Model (SM). Such physics is needed to solve consistency problems within the SM itself, as well as to describe various observed phenomena that do not have an explanation in the SM.

These include the Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the cosmos, the hierarchy between the electroweak scale and higher energy scales in physics (for example the scale of quantum gravity), the excess of matter versus antimatter that allows us to be here, the number of families of quarks and leptons and the patterns of their masses and mixings, the masses of neutrinos, the apparent unification of gauge interactions, the absence of CP violation in the strong interactions, and more.

Recent research within the group has addressed all of these questions. The challenge is to come up with a theory that extends the SM and which explains some or all of these phenomena, without being in conflict with the many other observations that are consistent with the SM alone. With such theories in hand, one can look for novel experimental signatures, which can be searched for at the LHC and elsewhere. (back to top)

The Quantum Theory of Fluids

Contact: Ben Gripaios

Recently it has been shown that there is a consistent quantum field theory (QFT) description of an ordinary classical fluid. This theory is very different from the other QFTs tha are now ubiquitous in high energy physics and elsewhere, because of the presence of fluid vortices. The project will focus on studying the quantum analogues of classical fluid mechanics phenomena, such as vortices, shocks, surface waves, and Kelvin waves, and in searching for evidence of this behaviour in real-world systems. (back to top)