Potential student research projects

The Research School of Physics performs research at the cutting edge of a wide range of disciplines.

By undertaking your own research project at ANU you could open up an exciting career in science.

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Atomic and Molecular Physics

Fragmentation of molecules by positronium

Positronium is a bound state between an electron and a positron. It is hydrogen-like with a binding energy half that of hydrogen. Positronium has been found to scatter like an electron for the same velocity. Electrons can fragment molecules by temporary attaching leading to fragmentation. This project will explore the fragmentation of molecules in positronium scattering with molecules.

Dr Joshua Machacek, A/Prof. James Sullivan, Professor Stephen Buckman

Experimental determination of the Auger yield per nuclear decay

Auger electrons are emitted after nuclear decay and are used for medical purposes. The number of Auger electrons generated per nuclear decay is not known accurately, a fact that  hinders medical applications.  This project aims to obtain a experimental estimate of the number of Auger electrons emitted per nuclear decay.

A/Prof Maarten Vos, Dr Tibor Kibedi, Professor Andrew Stuchbery

Attosecond time-resolved atomic reactions

We apply the most advanced quantum-mechanical modeling to resolve electron motion in atoms and molecules on the atto-second (one quintillionth of a second) time scale.  Our theoretical modeling, based on a rigorous, quantitative description of correlated electron dynamics, provides insight into new physics taking place on the atomic time scale.

Professor Anatoli Kheifets, Dr Igor Ivanov

Positron applications in medical physics

This is a multi-faceted project which can be adapted to students at the honours level and above. A number of possibilities exist to perform experiments directed towards improving the use of positrons in medice, mostly focussed on Positron Emission Tomography (PET).

A/Prof. James Sullivan, Professor Stephen Buckman, Dr Joshua Machacek

Atomic magnetometer for exploring physics beyond the standard model

The Global Network of Optical Magnetometers for Exotic Physics (GNOME) uses precision atomic magnetometers to look new physics.  The concept is to have a global network of magnetometers looking for correlated magnetic field fluctuations that may be caused by strange, and unknown physics.

Dr Ben Buchler, Dr Geoff Campbell

Hot entanglement with cold atoms

This theoretical physics project aims to develop novel schemes for generating long-lived, thermally-robust entanglement between individual pairs of cold atoms. Theoretical models developed in this project will inform optical tweezer experiments in the lab of Mikkel Andersen at the University of Otago.

Dr Stuart Szigeti

Measuring and modelling free-ion hyperfine fields

Motivated by exciting prospects for measurements of the magnetism of rare isotopes produced by the new radioactive beam accelerators internationally, this experimental and computational project seeks to understand the enormous magnetic fields produced at the nucleus of highly charged ions by their atomic electron configuration.

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Dr Tibor Kibedi, Mr Brendan McCormick

Fundamental tests of quantum mechanics with matter waves

We create the coldest stuff in the Universe – a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) – by laser-cooling helium atoms to within a millionth of a degree Kelvin. At these extremely low temperatures particles behave more like waves.  You will use the BEC to study fundamental quantum mechanics and for applications like atom interferometry.

Professor Andrew Truscott, Professor Kenneth Baldwin

Electron scattering from surfaces at high energies

The project aims at establishing the possibilities of high-energy electron scattering in the analysis of thin layers. 

A/Prof Maarten Vos

Electron-liquid interface scattering

Low temperature plasmas are being exploited for new medical therapy techniques and in engineering applications in agriculture. This project explores the fundamental behaviour of how electrons penetrate a liquid surface, such as the skin of the body.

Dr Daniel Cocks, Dr Cormac Corr

Positrons and Dust Grains

Positron emitters are embedded in clouds of dust grains produced by supernova. This project will explore the transport of positrons in dust grains using Monte-Carlo techniques to improve our understanding of positron transport in an astrophysically relevant setting.

Dr Joshua Machacek

Optimised atom interferometry for space-based experiments

This theoretical physics project aims to optimise the performance of atom interferometry in a space-based environment. Space-based operation requires novel beamsplitting and atomic source production techniques, which will be developed in this project.

Dr Stuart Szigeti, Professor John Close

Benchmark positron scattering experiments

Using the atomic and molecular physics positron beam at the ANU, the student will undertake measurements of positron scattering from simple targets, providing high accuracy data to test recent theoretical calculations.

A/Prof. James Sullivan, Professor Stephen Buckman, Dr Joshua Machacek

Coherent control of quantum-mechanical systems

The project studies possibility of the coherent control (i.e. manipulating properties of a quantum system, such as charge density, levels populations, etc., using a suitably tailored laser pulse) for a quantum mechanical model of a molecule.

Professor Anatoli Kheifets

Multi-component quantum gases : instabilities, turbulence and dynamics

This project aims to explore and measure new or predicted phenomena in complex multicomponent quantum systems.

Dr Nicholas Robins, Dr Angela White

How does a quantum system reach equilibrium?

The idea of equilibration is ubiquitous throughout nature. Out-of-equilibrium dynamics – be it caused by a disturbance and subsequent “rethermalisation”, or by passing through a phase transition – is a difficult question to characterise. This project looks at both equilibration and phase transitions in a Bose-Einstein condensate of metastable helium atoms.

Professor Andrew Truscott, Professor Kenneth Baldwin

Atomic ionization in super-strong laser fields

Using methods of quantum many-body theory to describe elementary processes in atoms and molecules interacting with strong electromagnetic fields.

Professor Anatoli Kheifets, Dr Igor Ivanov

Optical quantum memory

An optical quantum memory will capture a pulse of light, store it and then controllably release it. This has to be done without ever knowing what you have stored, because a measurement will collapse the quantum state. We are exploring a "photon echo" process to achieve this goal.

Dr Ben Buchler

The inverse swarm problem with neural networks

The traditional approach transport simulation is to measure cross sections and feed them into a code package. However, some cross sections are very difficult to both measure and calculate. The "inverse swarm problem" seeks to extract these cross sections from transport measruements such as current profiles or annihilation rates.

Dr Daniel Cocks, A/Prof. James Sullivan, Dr Joshua Machacek

Some other physics related research projects may be found at the ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science and the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Updated:  4 September 2019/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster