Summer Students - 2017

We are offering up to eight places for Summer Students in 2017.

We are looking for high-quality undergraduates who are currently in their 3rd year studying physics.

Successful applicants will work with our staff at RAL (Oxfordshire) on one of our projects. These include ATLAS, CMS, Dark Matter, LHCb and T2K.

Studentships will be for typically 8 weeks, in the period June to September.

Students will be responsible for their own accommodation (we will try to help) and transport, but will be paid of the order of 300 pounds per week to cover their expenses.


Applicants must be in their 3rd year, and will normally be studying physics. They must already be eligible to work in the UK.

How to Apply

We require completed CVs, along with a Letter of Recommendation from your university tutor, by 21st February 2017.

  • These should be sent separately by email to
  • CVs should have "2017 PPD Summer Student Application" as the subject of the email. Do not include additional information in your email, but put it in your CV.
  • Letters of Recommendation should have "2017 PPD Summer Student Reference" as the subject of the email. We anticipate these will come directly from your tutor (or another member of university staff who has supervised you).
Your CV should include:
  • Name
  • Home address
  • Correspondence address if different
  • Email address
  • Contact phone number (s)
  • Information about your current study:
    • University
    • Course name
    • Year of study (should be 3rd year!)
    • Subjects studied
    • Results to date
  • Past academic record
    • Schools
    • Dates
    • Subjects studied and results
  • Past work experience
  • Computing experience
  • Interests and hobbies, etc
As well as
  • Preferred period of Studentship (in June-September 2017) - at the top
  • Confirmation that you are eligible to live and work in UK (at the time of application) - at the top
  • A statement as to why you are interested in a Studentship
Do not include useful information in your email, as it will get lost.

We hope to come to conclusions by first week of March.

There is a certain amount of flexibility in start/end dates and we will try to match selected students to suitable projects.

If you have questions about the process or the programme, contact


Possible projects include the following.

Feel free to tell us in which projects you would be particular interested (can be one or more). If you have no strong preference, that is fine. We will be looking for the best students and will try to match them up to suitable projects.


Physics impact of intense LHC beams

The ATLAS experiment at CERN's LHC collected data in 2016 at an unprecedented rate. The beam collided at 40MHz, and each time around 40 proton-proton collisions occurred, showering the detector with tens of billions of particles a second. The student will study the impact of these extra particles on the detector reconstruction. There are some indications that our models of the degradation are wrong ... can the truth be understood? Is the detector degraded in other ways we do not expect?

Proposed dates of project: Sometime in June-September.

Required skills: The projects will involve simple coding in C++ on Linux. An expertise with neither language nor operating system is necessary - but it would help. A readiness to try things out on a computer is essential. An interest in particle physics is a must!

What makes the Higgs Boson?

The ATLAS and CMS Experiments discovered in 2012 a new particle, the Higgs boson. A lot has been learnt about it, but how is it actually made? They are created in the collision of two protons at LHC, but the proton is made of quarks, held together by gluons. Is it quarks colliding or gluons that creates the Higgs? Theory suggests gluons, but this has not been checked. This project will compare published data with predictions for the momentum of the Higgs boson in the two cases to try to uncover the truth.

Proposed dates of project: Sometime in June-September.

Required skills: The projects will involve simple coding in C++ on Linux. An expertise with neither language nor operating system is necessary - but it would help. A readiness to try things out on a computer is essential. An interest in particle physics is a must!

HLT Tracking Triggers

The ATLAS Trigger system makes fast, real-time, decisions on whether to keep data from interesting proton-proton collision events to be studied later, or discard them. We can only keep about 1 in 100,000 collisions. The High Level Trigger (HLT) includes fast software algorithms that process information from the Inner Detector to find charged particle tracks. Because of the huge number of particles produced in LHC collisions, the Inner Detector tracking software uses a lot of computing power - almost half of the HLT computing resources are used to reconstruct tracks in real time. ATLAS has developed custom-built electronics (called the Fast TracKer, FTK) to find tracks before the start of the HLT; this hardware will be deployed and operated for the first time this year. In this project, you will use the ROOT analysis package to perform validation of the tracks from FTK and commission new FTK-based triggers ready to be used online later in the year.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks in the period June to August.

Required skills: You should have an interest in computing with some experience of programming in C++ or a similar language. Some knowledge of ROOT would be helpful but is not essential.

Detectors for the Upgrade Tracker

The ATLAS experiment at CERNís LHC will undergo a major upgrade in the mid-2020s. RAL is heavily involved in the development, prototyping and production of the silicon strip sub-detector for this upgrade. We are looking for a summer student to perform analysis of data taken at test beam at DESY and to evaluate prototype detector elements. This project will comprise approximately 50:50 software analysis and laboratory work.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks in the period July to September.

Required skills: The project will require coding in C++ and so an interest in computing and some experience of C++ or a similar language is required. Experience handling delicate electronics in a laboratory or similar environment is desirable but not required.

Physics studies for the Upgrade Tracker

In ATLAS, preparations are on-going to upgrade the detectors for data-taking around 2025 when the Large Hadron Collider will collide protons with a much higher rate than today. Already in the on-going data-taking, up to 50 low-energetic collisions coincide with each interesting physics one. In 2025, the situation will be even worse and up to 200 additional interactions will happen simultaneously. This will be a challenge for the detectors and the physics analyses. For this upgrade, a new tracking detector will be build in which a group here at RAL is involved.

The summer student will help with the preparations of the design for this new detector. The baseline detector layout has now been decided upon, but many details in the layout are not yet fixed. He/she will study the tracking performance for the layout(s) being considered and thus, can have an impact on the final detector design. To do so he/she will use simulations to study for example the reconstruction of electrons or muons and/or the resolutions for different particle types. For this tasks he/she will use C++ and/or Python code to analyse the output of the ATLAS reconstruction software suite.

Proposed dates of project: 8 week in the period between June to end of August.

Required skills: the student should have interest in computing but no deep prior knowledge in C++ or Python is required.

Finding particles using Machine Learning

Now not available under this scheme.

In an environment such as the Large Hadron Collider, we have millions of collisions per second, each producing thousands of particles passing through our detectors. Particle physics experiments such as ATLAS rely on thousands of computers using clever algorithms to identify different types of particles and find interesting collisions, such as the production of Higgs bosons.

We may be able to use recent developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence to create sophisticated new ways of finding particles. In this project you will create a prototype system capable of identifying particles in the ATLAS detector.

Required skills: You should have an interest in computing with some experience of programming in C++ or a similar language.


Particle reconstruction algorithms for the CMS Level-1 trigger upgrade

In 2025, after a series of upgrades, the Large Hadron Collider will be colliding protons at a significantly higher rate, in order to increase the sensitivity of the ATLAS and CMS detectors to evidence for new physics. The CMS detector's Level-1 trigger system must identify the most interesting collisions, in order to reduce the collision rate down by a large factor to the detector's read-out rate. Since the interesting collisions must be identified within a few microseconds, the numerous particles produced in each collision are reconstructed in high-speed programmable electronics (FPGAs). From 2025, identifying the most interesting collisions will become significantly more difficult due to the increased rate of proton collisions, and so the Level-1 trigger system will be upgraded using state-of-the-art technologies. This is a very challenging project, and research is underway here to optimise our proposed solution.

One or two summer students will use C++ software running on simulated LHC collision events to develop algorithms that reconstruct the numerous particles produced from each collision, based on information from the detector's various components such as tracking systems and calorimeters. Since these algorithms must ultimately be run in the electronics, the student will need to keep them as simple as possible, and understand the limitations and strengths of the electronics.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks during a period to be agreed from June to August.

Required skills: You need a logical mind, and should be familiar with computer programming, and ideally with C++. An interest in particle physics or electronics would be a bonus.

Dark Matter

Simulation studies of the LUX-ZEPLIN Experiment

The nature of dark matter is one of the open and fundamental questions in physics, and the LZ Experiment is at the forefront of technology designed to pursue this question. The experiment will instrument 7 tonnes of liquid xenon, with the ability to measure particle interactions of <2 keV, in a detector with extremely low rates of radioactive backgrounds. The success of the LZ experiment depends on a careful understanding of the response of the detector.

The summer student will use simulation to study the scintillation light propagation in the detector and will work on the algorithm optimisation for efficient and fast light tracking.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks in period June to August.

Required skills: You should have an interest in particle physics and computing, with some experience of programming in C/C++ or a similar language. Some knowledge of ROOT would be helpful but is not essential.


Search for lepton flavour violation at LHCb

Searching for lepton-flavour violating decays is a powerful way to search for physics beyond the Standard Model. These searches can be performed with unprecedented sensitivity in a variety of b-hadron decays at LHCb, one of the four main experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Particle identification (PID) is an important tool to discriminate the signal, i.e., the lepton-flavour violating decay, from the large background of other events produced in pp collisions, and requires precise alignment of the PID detectors.

The project involves data-analysis of real data and of simulated events in the LHCb detector. The main objective is to optimise the signal/background separation, by studies of the PID selection criteria. Additionally, the student will work on improving the PID performance at LHCb by aligning the RICH detectors. The LHCb RICH detectors can identify various particle species by the light they emit by the Cherenkov effect when they travel through a gas. To do this they need to record the position of every photon with an accuracy of 0.5 mm or better. The accuracy of the detected position could be improved by alignment, the calculation of the position of each photon detector with data, rather than rely on the mechanical tolerances of the system.

The student will learn about two important aspects of particle physics experimental work: physics analysis and detector alignment. He/she will work in a small team of physicists and will be asked to present the status of his/her work in regular meetings.

Proposed dates of project: 3 July to 25 August (negotiable)

Required skills: The projects will involve simple coding in C++ on Linux. An expertise with neither language nor operating system is necessary - but it would help. A readiness to try things out on a computer is essential. An interest in particle physics is a must!


Improving Neutrino Interaction Simulations

GENIE ( is physics Monte Carlo simulation for the experimental neutrino community.

RAL participates in the development of this popular physics simulation used by nearly all modern neutrino experiments. GENIE is nothing less than an interface between theory and experiment and, as such, it plays a critical role in precision measurements of neutrino mixing. Over the past several months, many new theoretical and empirical models were added into GENIE. An effort is currently underway to characterise and further improve these models. The successful student will become involved in ongoing studies aiming i) to produce a quantitative characterisation of the agreement between GENIE models and a large diverse collection of experimental data, and ii) to tune the GENIE model parameters.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks in the window June-August 2017 (inclusive).

Required skills: The student should have some programming experience, ideally in C++.

Neutrino Oscillation Studies on T2K, DUNE and SBN

VALOR ( is a fitting group developing state-of-the-art neutrino oscillation analysis procedures.

VALOR was first established within the T2K experiment where it led numerous flagship analyses and produced world-leading results. The existence of a powerful, flexible, well-validated, and optimised analysis and software framework, enabled the VALOR group to adapt its analysis procedures on several other experiments. Today VALOR plays an important role in physics sensitivity and design optimisation studies for the proposed DUNE and HyperK experiments, as well as in preparations for the physics exploitation of the Fermilab SBN programme.

The successful student will contribute to the VALOR analysis development and participate either in the T2K data analysis or in oscillation sensitivity studies for DUNE and SBN.

Proposed dates of project: 8 weeks in the window June-July 2017 (inclusive).

Required skills: The student should have good C++ programming skills, and some general understanding of statistical data analysis methodologies.

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