Summer Vacation Students / Paid Internships

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe’s largest science research organisations. We’re trusted to support, enable and undertake pioneering projects in an amazing diversity of fields. Through world-class facilities and people, we’re driving ground-breaking advances in science and technology.

We now have the opportunity for undergraduate students to gain practical work experience during summer 2018, while earning a generous salary. If you are interested in starting your career working at the forefront of scientific research, you could even be selected as one of our sponsored students and receive a payment of up to £6,000 per annum for the rest of your course.

Students can work for 4 -12 weeks at either the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Harwell, Oxfordshire), Daresbury Laboratory (Warrington) or The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (Edinburgh) on projects relevant to their intended or current course of study, under the supervision of experts in their chosen field.

We offer an invaluable experience with exposure to world class science and technology, and the opportunity to develop working relationships that continue well after your placement has finished.

Candidates may apply for no more than 3 vacancies in total and must provide a cover letter (expect for PPD roles where a covering letter is not required), specifying which vacancy they are applying for.

All candidates must have existing right to work in the UK.

The closing date for the scheme is 1 April. However, some roles will close before this date – see individual vacancies for details. In previous years we have had an exceptionally high response for many roles, and subsequently we reserve the right to close individual projects early, subject to demand.

We have slightly different applications process for vacancies in ISIS, PPD and the rest of STFC, so please follow the relevant instructions.

We now have the following vacancies within selected STFC divisions:

ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments gives unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. We support a national and international community of more than 3000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology and materials engineering, catalysis and polymers, and on to fundamental studies of materials.

The ISIS summer student placement scheme is now open to applicants, allowing undergraduate students studying for a degree in Science, Engineering or Computing to gain experience working in the scientific environment at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source.

The deadline for ISIS applications is 4 March 2018. All applicants for these roles should provide a copy of their University transcripts.

Projects 1-20 of the below ISIS roles require you to complete the following online application form, with a short paragraph to explain your interest and suitability (use the separate link provided for project 21). You will then need to email your CV, cover letter and transcripts to detailing the projects that you are applying for.

Location: All ISIS roles are based at Harwell, Oxfordshire.

ISIS-1 - VR developer for ISIS neutron source VR platform

The ISIS Neutron and Muon source is a world-leading research centre, generating beams of neutrons and muons to study a wide range of materials and their applications at the atomic level, including engineering, earth science, biomolecules, advanced battery components and computer chips.

Reporting to the CAD management team, the successful candidate will work with the Unreal game engine, 3D modelling & animation software (Cinema4D) and CAD software (Solid Edge) to further develop the ISIS VR platform. Ideally, the candidate will have experience working with a game development engine (preferably Unreal). Experience with 3D modelling and texturing would also be useful. C++ experience would be an advantage.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: computer science or scientific computing.

ISIS Projects 2 - 5 SasView Development

The ISIS Pulsed Neutron & Muon Source is a world-leading facility for condensed matter (nanoscale) research, and operates one of the largest and most advanced suites of Small-Angle Scattering (SAS) instruments anywhere. Together these conduct 150 experiments a year across a broad range of science and engineering. One of the challenges is developing user-oriented state-of-the-art data analysis software to meet the demands of the scientific programme.

The SasView package is established Open Source software currently being developed by an international collaboration of contributors from 9 partner organisations to meet the needs of the world-wide SAS community. Past contributors have included ISIS Summer Students.

This project is an opportunity to help contribute to the development of a neutron data analysis program used by hundreds of academic and industrial researchers around the world!

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: mathematical physics/chemistry, software engineering, computer science.

ISIS-2 - SasView Development Support

The SasView package is established Open Source software currently being developed by an international collaboration of contributors from 9 partner organisations to meet the needs of the world-wide SAS community. Past contributors have included ISIS Summer Students. Your name, just like theirs, will appear on the website!

ISIS-3 - Automated Model Code Translation for SasView

The SasView development team is looking for a talented software developer to help research, develop and test a tool to automatically translate researcher-written Python fitting models into well-crafted, more computationally efficient, C code to improve model-fitting efficiency and throughput. This, combined with the SasView model marketplace, will provide independent researchers with the ability to create, fit and share custom, leading-edge, models and theories within a tested framework, affording a degree of assistance to an often highly challenging task.

ISIS-4 - SasView Development Support for SESANS

The SasView development team requires an additional scientific software developer to help in a refactor to enable the analysis of newer scattering techniques.

ISIS-5 - Implementing 'Beta-decoupling' in SasView

The SasView development team is looking for a software developer with some grounding in physics or chemistry to refactor the way that SasView implements interparticle structure factors within its fitting models. Specifically, we wish to implement the 'Beta decoupling approximation' in order to improve the accuracy of fits to scattering data from low polydispersity systems, or systems with non-spherical particles. Visit the webpage for rather detailed information.

The scientists involved will provide training and assistance to understand the computational tasks, which will involve extensive refactoring of python and C++ code to perform new calculations, plus verification and unit testing.

ISIS-6 - Modelling the ISIS synchroton

The ISIS Neutron and Muon source is based on a high intensity proton accelerator. In order to understand the behavior of the beam particles in ISIS, simulation codes have been developed. In the future, upgrades to the ISIS accelerator will require detailed computer simulations to confirm that the beam is well controlled and the machine will work as designed. This will be very challenging as the beam intensity increases even further, as unexpected beam loss could damage the accelerator. The possibility of using multiple codes to verify and benchmark against one another will mean that accelerator physicists can be confident in their future designs and understand the beam behavior fully.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: engineering, software engineering, computer science, scientific computing or natural sciences with computing experience.

ISIS-7 - Using Monte Carlo simulations to predict the performance of the analyser upgrade of the OffSpec polarized neutron reflectometer

OffSpec is a spin-echo enabled polarised neutron reflectometer at the ISIS second target station. Every year a large number of academic researchers visit the instrument to perform experiments with the support of the instrument scientists. All instrumentation on OFFSPEC are precision engineered, so to optimise new features we use a neutron monte-carlo program called McStas. You will familiarise yourself with the existing models of the Offspec instrument and assess their validity against experimental data before implementing various competing design ideas for a new neutron polarisation analyser.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: natural sciences, mathematics, computer science.

ISIS projects 8-10 Mantid neutron data analysis software development

What is MANTID?

MANTID is an open source project written in C++ and Python designed for visualisation and analysis of scientific data. MANTID provides support for all of the instruments at ISIS as well as instruments at other facilities worldwide (e.g. SNS in the United States and ESS in Sweden).

Useful skills to have:

  • A strong desire to work on some challenging software issues
  • A strong desire to work as part of a team
  • Knowledge of Python
  • Competency in writing unit and system tests
  • Previously worked with git or similar version control

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: computer science, software engineering or scientific computing.

ISIS-8 - Using Mantid for negative Muon X-ray diffraction

Archaeological objects (such as Roman coins) can have their elementary composition determined, however these methods are usually destructive. At ISIS a method has been developed by the Muon group, which uses Muons (heavy electrons) to determine the elemental composition. The advantage of using Muons is that the process is non-destructive. You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: computer science, software engineering or scientific computing.

ISIS-9 - Performance Optimisation for Next Generation Neutron Sources

The European Spallation Source (ESS), currently under construction in Sweden, will be the world's most powerful pulsed neutron source. The brightness is predicted to be 100 x greater than ISIS in Oxfordshire. Furthermore, the ESS will provide extensive real-time data reduction capabilities. The UK is helping solve these major challenges via an in-kind agreement with the nations collaborating on the project. We are working closely with our Swedish and Danish colleagues to make major improvements to the runtime performance of Mantid.

A successful applicant will join the team and make a direct contribution to this international scientific effort. We have a range of interesting sub-projects to start.

ISIS-10 - Measurement Automation in Mantid

Instrument scientists at ISIS spend a large amount of their time manually adjusting instrument parameters to achieve a desired measurement from a material. During such measurements instrument scientists will often “over count" to ensure that their data is of sufficient quality for analysis. Often measurements follow common patterns, for example, to move the sample position by a small amount, then count until some statistic of data quality is below a desired tolerance.

The goal of this exciting summer project is to expand an existing prototype to automate the measure-analyse-move cycle common most neutron scattering experiments. A successful applicant will work closely with the Mantid team and ISIS instrument scientists to develop a flexible solution that integrates the Mantid project with the ISIS control system.

ISIS-11 - Quasi elastic neutron scattering and molecular dynamics analysis of bio-macromolecules

Neutron scattering has helped underpin our understanding of soft matter science by enabling scientists to answer two fundamental questions - 'where atoms are' and 'what atoms do'. Quasi-elastic neutron scattering (QENS) in particular is sensitive to the re-organisation of molecules on a pico-second (ps) to nano-second (ns) time scale and over length scales which cover both inter and intra molecular distances. Clearly understanding such complex environments is far from trivial. Fortunately, the time and length scales accessible using Molecular Dynamic (MD) simulations overlap those probed by QENS. Using bespoke analysis software, this project will focus on the interpretation of existing MD simulations of proteins and subsequent comparison with results from existing experimental neutron scattering measurements to check for agreement.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in any of these: natural science, especially Biology or Chemistry.

ISIS-12 - ISIS synchroton Extract Kicker circuit model

This project is to design and build an electrical model of the ISIS Synchrotron Extract Kicker circuit. The Extract Kickers are used to steer the proton beam out of the accelerator and towards the targets. The real circuit is charged to 50 kV to give a 5 kA pulsed, with a rise time of 100 ns and pulse width of 1 µs. The model will be designed to be approximately 1:1000 scale, maintaining the timing specification but for a 50 V and 5 A pulse. The ISIS synchrotron accelerates two bunches of protons up to 84% the speed of light over approximately 10,000 revolutions. On the last pass, the Kicker magnets are switched on to extract the two bunches towards the neutron targets. The magnet has to turn on to 5,000 Amps in the time available between the two circulating bunches – less than 200 nanoseconds.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in electrical engineering.

ISIS-13 - Experiment Control Software Development

In order to control and gather data from the experiments a suite of software and associated systems are developed and maintained by ISIS. The data acquired is collated from a number of distributed systems using various communications protocols, and co-ordinated by IBEX, our next generation of instrument control software. The position will be as a full member of the IBEX Project's development team. The tasks available ranges from developing new drivers for use with the hardware that controls experiments at ISIS, to developing and maintaining the user interface for IBEX. IBEX is run using an Agile methodology, and you will be expected to be involved in all aspects of the process.

ISIS-14 - X-Ray diffraction project

The position will offer the student an excellent opportunity in crystallography to use and develop the skills they have acquired at university whilst learning many new ones along the way. The main focus of the work will be to systematically characterise the properties of X-ray diffraction instruments, exploring and identifying the optimum configurations for the instrument in various modes of measurement.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in natural science.

ISIS-15 - Deuteration facility Summer students (Flow Chemistry Method Development, Amino Acid Synthesis)

ISIS is a world-leading neutron and muon facility whose user community depend on the provision of speciality chemicals which are isotopically-labelled in order to effectively perform their experiments. The Deuteration Facility aims to provide such materials, in particular organic molecules and systems where hydrogen has been exchanged for its heavier isotope deuterium. The Deuteration Facility provides custom synthesis of target isotopic materials for the neutron user communities in order to enable their experimental programmes.

Requests for materials span a wide range of different types compounds, including amino acids, surfactants, organic/inorganic salts, small drug molecules etc., and target syntheses typically need to be developed. You will be involved in the development and execution of custom synthetic pathways in order to generate high-quality products for use by the neutron user communities. There are two projects on offer: Flow Chemistry Method Development and Amino Acid Synthesis.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in natural science.

ISIS-16 Student Web Developers in Business Applications group

Computing is essential to the science that STFC supports. We would love to have 2 vacation students join our team this summer to help develop software used to support the day-to-day operations. We mainly develop tiered solutions using Java, C# and various web technologies. We have daily standups, code reviews, try-it-out days, and use Jenkins. Our placements tend to suit students that want to develop software in a team environment using agile. As part of a team you will be involved in all stages of the software development lifecycle, from requirements capture through modelling, coding, testing and deployment. This will give first-hand experience of developing a product from conception through to maintenance using agile techniques. You will also experience working in a DevOps environment. You will be involved in supporting and developing our enterprise SharePoint solutions using standard software engineering best practices. Training will be provided as necessary.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in software engineering or computer science.

ISIS-17 - ISIS Summer Student for the development of elemental analysis

Summary: This project is to develop the unique capabilities offered by the RIKEN-RAL muon facility. Implanting negative muons results in X-ray emission which is element dependent and therefore the energy and intensity of such peaks can result in the determination of the elemental composition. These X-rays have large energies (~MeV) therefore probing beneath the surface is entirely possible, making this a novel and potentially powerful non-destructive probe. Alongside the instrument development we propose a broad science program, from cultural heritage to bio-materials to energy related materials.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in natural science, mathematics or computer science.

ISIS-18 - Adding high energy nuclear data to radiation analysis simulation tools

Radiation transport calculations are key to designing safe and efficient neutron instruments at spallation sources such as ISIS. The radiation transport codes are being developed continually to utilise modern high performance computing facilities to enable us to tackle larger problems within a reasonable timeframe. The two main methods for radiation transport are Monte Carlo methods and deterministic methods. Deterministic methods discretise space, energy and angle to solve the transport equations usually on a regular structured grid which can scale well on 100-100,000 processors. This project will investigate the potential application to neutron instruments of a recent deterministic transport code currently under development at Imperial College.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in natural science, computer science, engineering or mathematics with an interest in computational modelling.

ISIS-19 Electronics Vacation Student

Working for the ISIS Experimental Operations Division to design, test and commission an analogue electronics circuit to source a constant current of <2uA. This project will enhance the group's breadth of controlling equipment at cryogenic temperatures.

You might particularly like this if you are interested in engineering or natural sciences.

ISIS-20 The role of hydrogen bonds in organic multi-ferroics using high throughput neutron spectroscopy

You will be employed by the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in the Molecular spectroscopy group at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to undertake research on role of hydrogen bonds in organic multiferroics using high-throughput quasielastic neutron scattering (QENS).

Flexible functional materials are important candidates of current research, because of their potential applications in plastic electronics. Organic ferroelectrics and multi-ferroics are of such kind of materials having applications in data and storage devices. Since flexibility and ferroelectricity are rare combinations, organic ferroelectrics are candidates of intense research promising of designing new ferroelectrics.

The placement would be suitable for a student studying for a degree in Physics, Chemistry, Materials or a related discipline. A track record of performing experiments and or atomistic simulations would be advantageous.

ISIS–21 Target Station 1 Design and validation testing

The ISIS facility consists of around 30 neutron and Muon Instruments. The neutron instruments are based around two target stations where neutrons are produced by the interaction of a high energy proton beam with a solid metal target. One of these stations, Target Station 2 (TS2), was constructed relatively recently and has been operating since 2009. The first Target Station (TS1) was constructed in the mid-1980s and has been operating for around 30 years. Over this period there has been no significant work carried out to maintain or develop the internals of TS1 – the moderators, reflector, and target infrastructure, including cryogenic and cooling circuits etc., have remained largely untouched. The TS1 Project will develop and upgrade key elements of TS1, following an extended period of understanding and modelling of the workings of the target station as-is.

As part of the larger TS1 project, we have a package of wok for an engineering student, to plan, co-ordinate and record a testing programme for adapted tooling to be used in a remote handling environment for the cutting up and preparation for disposal of a cantilever support frame from the very heart of ISIS TS1. This will involve working closely with engineers for the ISIS Design Division and the target station operations team. It is likely to involve elements of design, procurement, hands-on-testing, project management and reporting.

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

The STFC Technology division provides advanced technology and engineering in support of both STFC funded activities and other high profile international projects. Our technologies and competencies are world class, and our expertise encompasses micro-nano engineering, through microelectronics, to major engineering structures.

Tech 1 - Imaging Payload for Future CubeSat Space Missions

Location: UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh

The long term objective for the UK Astronomy Technology Centre is to develop a new imaging platform. The future goal is that the small and low power platform would have applications for science payloads in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Small Satellites.

This project will be entirely lab and office based, working with an Imaging Development Kit. You will start by following examples and exercises with the kit. As this is the second year the project has run the successful candidate will need to familiarise themselves with the existing work undertaken by the previous student. A high calibre student will be able to progress to customising the design to suit the intended application.

You will require excellent problem solving skills, an interest in scientific imaging. Experience programming a FPGA with Xilinx Vivado Tools using VHDL and C/C++ would be essential for this project.

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

STFC’s Business and Innovation Directorate (BID) apply knowledge from STFC’s facilities, research and technology programmes to the wider economy, delivering UK economic growth through spin-out companies, inward investment and collaborative industrial R&D.

BID 1- Marketing and documentation of laboratory testing services

Location: Harwell, Oxfordshire

STFC’s Innovation Technology Access Centre (I-TAC) within BID is a unique, fully equipped space for innovation, research and development, providing flexible access to laboratory space, "hot-labs" and scientific equipment. It is ideally suited to start-up companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and R&D teams from established companies.

This is a fantastic opportunity to be involved within a small team who support the activities within I-TAC laboratories. This year I-TAC acquired several new pieces of capital equipment such as an electron microscope, energy dispersive x-ray detector, optical microscope and materials preparation suite. Critically, this is an opportunity to create some advertising documents (posters, Power point presentations, pamphlets etc.) to maximise the exposure of our new capabilities.

You will be responsible for the creation of informative media such as posters, pamphlets, presentations, and helping to document equipment operation instructions.

You will gain valuable experience in how STFC helps to incubates companies.

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

STFC’s Central Laser Facility (CLF) is a world-class centre for research in physical and life sciences. CLF houses some of the most intense lasers in the world, capable of generating some of the most extreme conditions on earth.

Location: All CLF roles are based at Harwell, Oxfordshire

CLF 1 - Cryogenic Pressure Systems

The role will be based within the CLF Engineering Department, working predominantly in the design team, but with opportunity to undertake Finite Element Analysis and hands on engineering experience with the technician team.

CLF are looking to develop new innovative designs for key components of our pressure systems operating at cryogenic temperatures, including the complex challenge of optical pressure windows. These cryogenic pressure systems are used to cool optical gain media that are required to amplify the energy of the laser system.

You will be responsible for:

  • Writing documentation such as specifications, inspection and test plans and engineering reports
  • Attending and minuting meetings to define requirements, review designs etc.
  • Undertaking 3D computer aided design to create models and detail design drawings
  • Undertaking (with supervision) Finite Element Analysis
  • Assembling and testing (with supervision)

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

CLF 2 - Development of 3rd Order Cross-Correlator

CLF’s facilities range from the Vulcan and Gemini high power laser facilities to optical microscopes and tweezers. CLF takes a leading role in many research projects that make use of these facilities, including work on laser-plasma accelerators, fusion energy, ultra-fast science, vibrational spectroscopy and single-molecule microscopy. Further details can be found on the Central Laser Facility website.

Vulcan is a versatile eight beam Nd: Glass laser facility delivering long and short pulse beams into its two operational areas: TAP and TAW. A high contrast short pulse beam line delivering a peak power 1PW (500J/500fs) and 1021Wcm-2 intensities is delivered in Target area Petawatt. While TAW is a flexible area that can combine all eight beams providing 200 TW in two short pulses with 1.2KJ in 6 long pulses (ns).

The summer project will be based in the High Power laser Division of CLF working in the Vulcan Laser facility to develop a 3rd order cross-correlator to improve the temporal characterisation of the laser. You will work with others in the group to design and build the new cross-correlator before helping to install it in the diagnostics suite of the laser.

We are seeking an individual who has knowledge of short-pulse lasers and diagnostics. You will be responsible for developing an existing design of a cross-correlator so that it can be operated as a 3rd order cross-correlator.

You need to be capable of working independently and in a laser laboratory.

Ideally you will have experience aligning diagnostics for ultra-short pulse lasers.

Knowledge and experience of non-linear optics is desirable.

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

STFC’s RAL Space department carries out an exciting range of world-class space research and technology development. We have had significant involvement in over 200 space missions and operate at the forefront of UK Space Research. We develop space and ground-based astronomy instruments for organisations and agencies including ESA, NASA and ESO.

Space 1 - Thermal analysis of space hardware

Location: Harwell, Oxfordshire

The RAL Space Thermal Engineering Group (TEG) provides expert thermal engineering for these projects and also manages a facility for production of Multi-layer Insulation. We work on a broad range of projects, including the Mid-Infrared Instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope, the SPICE instrument for Solar Orbiter, Optical Ground Support Equipment for Meteosat Third Generation, Receivers for MetOp Second Generation and the Broadband Radiometer Instrument for the ESA EarthCARE satellite.

We are seeking an engineering / science student who would gain technical experience related to thermal analysis of space hardware.


The main activity is to improve the way that material thermal property data is managed within the Thermal Engineering Group. This may include:

  • A critical review of our existing Microsoft Access properties database (e.g., user interface and operation)
  • Definition of requirements for an improved database, taking into account our current and future work
  • Development of systems to ensure traceability of property data (referencing data sources)
  • Developing processes for importing property data into our thermal analysis software (ESATAN-TMS and Systema Thermica)

These tasks will require the candidate to develop an understanding of our projects and will provide opportunities to assist with a range of design and analysis activities within the group.

Candidate essential criteria:

  • Studying an Engineering or Science Degree
  • Starting 3rd or 4th Year of degree in 2018
  • Good knowledge of general PC applications (Excel, Word, Powerpoint)
  • Programming experience
  • Good organisational skills
  • Good communication skills

Please complete the following Online application form then email your CV and cover letter to detailing the project/s that you are applying for.

STFC’s Particle Physics Department (PPD) physicists and technical staff maintain and develop many world-leading experiments within the UK programme of particle physics research, participate in the experimental programme with university groups, contribute to training of research students, and provide support and general infrastructure for university groups.

The closing date for all roles within PPD is 21st February 2018. Candidates must include a CV, along with a letter of recommendation from your tutor. Candidates must also be between their third and fourth year of study.

All PPD vacancies are based at Harwell, Oxfordshire.

For more information and to apply for a role in PPD please visit the PPD website.


Tracking Detector Design for ATLAS Upgrade

In ATLAS preparations are ongoing 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 ongoing data-taking, up to 60 low-energy collisions coincide with each interesting physics one. In 2025 the situation will be even worse and up to 200 additional interactions will occur 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 the group here at RAL is involved.

The summer student will help with the validation of the design for this new tracking detector whose final design details still needs to be fixed. He/she will study the tracking performance for the new detector. To do so he/she will use simulations to study the reconstruction of electrons or muons which traverse the detector and which are produced by particles coming from possible new physics.

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

Student specification: For this task he/she will use C++ and/or Python code to analyse the output of the ATLAS reconstruction software suite. Therefore, the student should have interest in computing, but no deep prior knowledge in C++ or Python is required.

High-Level Tracking Triggers for ATLAS

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 placement: 8 weeks in the period June to August.

Student specification: 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.

Pixel Module Mounting for the ATLAS Tracker

The ATLAS Pixel detector will be replaced for the High-Luminosity Upgrade of the ATLAS Tracker. At RAL, we are responsible for mounting Pixel Modules on the carbon-fibre C-sections.

The student will be involved in:

  • Making test assemblies/targets and comparing accuracy using the RAL module placement system and Smartscope
  • Qualification of different adhesives for module mounting as necessary
  • Measuring pot-life of adhesives to be used and programming the new glue dispenser to compensate
  • Mechanical drawings
  • DAQ and test setup for electrical testing of assembled half-rings
Utilising Machine Learning to optimise Data Placement for the ATLAS experiment

Since the start of LHC data taking, the ATLAS experiments has produced hundreds of petabytes of data. The data produced by ATLAS during LHC running is only a small fraction of the total as there are many derived data formats for specific types of analysis as well as a huge amount of Monte Carlo simulations.

The ATLAS data management system distributes this data across 120 sites around the world. While the data movement is handle automatically, decisions about what data to replicate, archive or delete are still made by humans. The aim of the project is to utilise machine learning techniques to analyse the data access patterns of ATLAS jobs in order to predict future usage. This can then be used to optimise data placement to improve the rate at which data is processed as well as saving resources.


Particle Reconstruction Algorithms for the CMS Level-1 Trigger Upgrade

In 2026, 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 identifies the most interesting collisions within a few microseconds, by reconstructing the numerous particles produced in each collision using high-speed programmable electronics (FPGAs). From 2026, 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 to use state-of-the-art technologies. This is a very challenging project, and research is underway here to optimise our proposed solution.

The summer student will use C++ software running on simulated LHC collision events to develop algorithms that identify the particles produced from each collision - either reconstructing their trajectories within the tracking systems, or identifying particular types of particles by combining these reconstructed tracks with information from other detector components (such as calorimeters).

Since these algorithms must ultimately be run in FPGAs, the student will need to keep them as simple as possible, and understand the limitations and strengths of the electronics. Depending on how quickly the project progresses, the student may also be able to write firmware that implements the algorithms in FPGAs using a high-level synthesis language.

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

Student specification: You need to have 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.

Deep Neural Networks in CMS

The CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider is collecting large volumes of complex data. The data is being examined for evidence of physics beyond the standard model, such as new types of Higgs Boson. Traditional data analysis techniques are evolving to include using sophisticated machine learning algorithms. The increase in computing power is making recent developments such as Deep Neural Networks viable in the large and complex data environment at the LHC. The student will use neural networks to study their capability for identifying signatures of interesting events in the CMS detector. This will involve the use of GPUs and possibly FPGAs.

Student specification: The student should have familiarity with computer programming, and ideally with C++ and an interest in Particle Physics.


Simulation studies of the LUX-ZEPLIN Dark Matter 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 be using a two-phase Time Projection Chamber with the ability to measure both the scintillation light from the liquid and the electroluminescence light from the gas above the liquid. 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 impact of a non-uniformity of the gas gap above the liquid on the electroluminescence light generation.

Proposed dates of placement: 8 weeks during June-August

Student specification: You should have an interest in particle physics and computing, with some experience of programming in C. Some knowledge of ROOT and Finite Element Methods would be helpful but is not essential.

How to apply for a PPD vacancy:

We require completed CVs, along with a Letter of Recommendation from your university tutor.

  • These should be sent separately by email to
  • CVs should have "YYYY PPD Summer Student Application" as the subject of the email, where "YYYY" is the current year. Do not include additional information in your email, but put it in your CV.
    Your CV should have a file name "SURNAME, FIRSTNAME" and should be in pdf or Word format.
  • Letters of Recommendation should have "YYYY 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).
    The letter should have a file name "SURNAME, FIRSTNAME".

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) - 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.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000