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.

Filter projects

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

Astrophysics

Exotic nuclear structure towards the neutron dripline

Investigate the properties of exotic nuclei and their impact on fundamental models and creation of the elements when stars explode. 

Dr AJ Mitchell

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

Radioimpurities in particle detectors for dark matter studies

This experiment will characterise dark matter detector material. Lowest levels of natural radioactivity in high purity samples will be analysed via ultra-senstive single atom counting using acclerator mass spectrometry.

Dr Michaela Froehlich , Dr Zuzana Slavkovska, A/Prof Stephen Tims, Professor Gregory Lane

Paving the way to study the chronology of the early solar system

Radionuclides can serve as tracers and chronometers for environmental processes. The time scale for these clocks is set by the half-life of the respective radioisotope. Using accelerator mass spectrometry and decay counting this project aims investigate the chronology of the Early Solar System.

Dr Stefan Pavetich, Dr Michaela Froehlich , A/Prof Stephen Tims, Mr Dominik Koll

Atomic and Molecular Physics

Interactions between antimatter and ultracold atoms

Antiparticles and antimatter have progressed from theory and science fiction to become an important and exciting area of pure and applied science. This fundamental atomic physics project will investigate how antimatter and matter interact by experimentally studying the interaction of positrons (the electron anti-particle) with trapped ultracold rubidium atoms.

Dr Sean Hodgman, Professor Stephen Buckman, Dr Joshua Machacek

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

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

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, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Dr Brendan McCormick

Positron interactions with structured surfaces

We are investigating novel effects and applications using positrons and structured surfaces.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Dr Sergey Kruk

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

Biophysics

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

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

Clean Energy

Machine learning approaches for nuclear fusion reactions

Proton-boron fusion has the potential to deliver limitless clean energy. This project will aims to understand the physics underpinng this important nuclear reaction by developing machine learning approaches to analyse complex reaction probabilities.

Dr Edward Simpson

Engineering in Physics

Understanding energy dissipation in colliding quantum many-body systems

This project aims to gain fundamental insights into the mechanisms of energy dissipation in nuclear collisions by making new measurements that will aid in the development of new models of nuclear fusion.

Dr Kaitlin Cook, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Emeritus Professor David Hinde

Nuclear structure studies with particle transfer reactions

This project will use nuclear reactions to study the basic make-up of atomic nuclei at the quantum level, and investigate the impact of nuclear structure on sub-atomic forces and fundamental physics. 

Dr AJ Mitchell, Professor Gregory Lane, Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Mr Ben Coombes

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

Nuclear lifetimes - developing new apparatus and methods

The measurement of the lifetimes of excited nuclear states is foundational for understanding nuclear excitations. This project covers three measurement methods that together span the nuclear lifetime range from about 100 femtoseconds to many nanoseconds. The project can include equipment development, measurement, and the development of analysis methodology (programming and computation). 

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Professor Gregory Lane, Mr Ben Coombes

Ultra-fast lifetime measurements of nuclear excited states

Use ultra-fast gamma-ray detectors to perform excited-state lifetime measurements and investigate single-particle and collective features of atomic nuclei. 

Professor Gregory Lane, Dr AJ Mitchell, Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi

Environmental Physics

Radioactivity in our environment

Radionuclides such as 236U and 239Pu were introduced into the environment by the atmospheric nuclear weapon tests and an be readily measured by accelerator mass spectrometry.

Dr Michaela Froehlich

Fusion and Plasma Confinement

Machine learning approaches for nuclear fusion reactions

Proton-boron fusion has the potential to deliver limitless clean energy. This project will aims to understand the physics underpinng this important nuclear reaction by developing machine learning approaches to analyse complex reaction probabilities.

Dr Edward Simpson

Materials Science and Engineering

Solid state synapses and neurons - memristive devices for neuromorphic computing

Interest in neuromorphic computing has led to interest in an excting new range of of solid-state neurons and synapses based on non-volatile resistive-switching and volatile threshold-switching in metal-oxide thin films.  This project explores the operation and functionality of these new devices with an emphasis on understanding the underlying mechanisms and materials physics.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman, Dr Sanjoy Nandi

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

Defect Engineering of 2D Materials

This project investigates the structure and density of defects created in 2D materials by energetic ion irradiation, and their effect on the the physical properties of these materials.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman

Positron interactions with structured surfaces

We are investigating novel effects and applications using positrons and structured surfaces.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Dr Sergey Kruk

Ultra-low contact resistance next generation semiconductor devices

Contact resistance is becoming a major limitation to device performance and new strategies are required to meet the needs of next-generation devices.  Existing contacts typically exploit the thermal and chemical stability of silicide/Si interfaces and take the form of a metal/silicide/Si heterostructure (e.g. W/TiN/TiSi2/Si), with the contact resistance dominated by the silicide/Si interface. The contact resistance of this interface is limited by the doping concentration in the Si substrate and the Schottky barrier height (SBH) of the heterojunction.  However, doping concentrations already exceed equilibrium solid solubility limits and further increases achieve only minor improvements.  Instead, any further reduction in contact resistivity relies on reducing the SBH.  This project will explore methods for controlling the SBH and develop device structures for measuring ultra-low contact resistivities.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman, Mr Tom Ratcliff

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Solid state synapses and neurons - memristive devices for neuromorphic computing

Interest in neuromorphic computing has led to interest in an excting new range of of solid-state neurons and synapses based on non-volatile resistive-switching and volatile threshold-switching in metal-oxide thin films.  This project explores the operation and functionality of these new devices with an emphasis on understanding the underlying mechanisms and materials physics.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman, Dr Sanjoy Nandi

Positron Annihilation Spectroscopy

Understanding material defects at the atomic scale using anitmatter.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Professor Stephen Buckman

Defect Engineering of 2D Materials

This project investigates the structure and density of defects created in 2D materials by energetic ion irradiation, and their effect on the the physical properties of these materials.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman

Positron interactions with structured surfaces

We are investigating novel effects and applications using positrons and structured surfaces.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Dr Sergey Kruk

Ultra-low contact resistance next generation semiconductor devices

Contact resistance is becoming a major limitation to device performance and new strategies are required to meet the needs of next-generation devices.  Existing contacts typically exploit the thermal and chemical stability of silicide/Si interfaces and take the form of a metal/silicide/Si heterostructure (e.g. W/TiN/TiSi2/Si), with the contact resistance dominated by the silicide/Si interface. The contact resistance of this interface is limited by the doping concentration in the Si substrate and the Schottky barrier height (SBH) of the heterojunction.  However, doping concentrations already exceed equilibrium solid solubility limits and further increases achieve only minor improvements.  Instead, any further reduction in contact resistivity relies on reducing the SBH.  This project will explore methods for controlling the SBH and develop device structures for measuring ultra-low contact resistivities.

Emeritus Professor Robert Elliman, Mr Tom Ratcliff

Photonics, Lasers and Nonlinear Optics

Positron interactions with structured surfaces

We are investigating novel effects and applications using positrons and structured surfaces.

Dr Joshua Machacek, Dr Sergey Kruk

Physics of the Nucleus

Understanding energy dissipation in colliding quantum many-body systems

This project aims to gain fundamental insights into the mechanisms of energy dissipation in nuclear collisions by making new measurements that will aid in the development of new models of nuclear fusion.

Dr Kaitlin Cook, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Emeritus Professor David Hinde

Exotic nuclear structure towards the neutron dripline

Investigate the properties of exotic nuclei and their impact on fundamental models and creation of the elements when stars explode. 

Dr AJ Mitchell

Nuclear batteries: Energy-storage applications of nuclear isomers

Nuclear metastable states, known colloquially as isomers, have energy densities millions of times greater than chemical batteries. This project investigates nuclear pathways for reliably extracting this energy from candidate isotopes on demand. 

Dr AJ Mitchell, Professor Gregory Lane

Quantum drivers to nuclear fission

Large scale quantum many body simulations are performed to study the quantum shell effects that determine the final properties of the nuclear fission fragments. 

Professor Cedric Simenel

Nuclei that fall apart: the role of sub-zeptosecond processes in reactions of weakly-bound nuclei

Some nuclei, like stable 6,7Li and 9Be or radioactive 8Li and 6He, are weakly-bound, which gives them a cluster structure which can be broken apart with very little input of energy. These nuclei show a huge variety of behaviors which challenge our understanding of nuclear reactions, requiring experimental measurements. 

Dr Kaitlin Cook, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Emeritus Professor David Hinde

Impact of nuclear structure on dark matter direct detection

Quantum many-body modelling of the atomic nucleus will help us understand how dark matter particles interact with atomic nuclei, as well as how many scattering events we can expect in underground laboratory search for dark matter. 

Professor Cedric Simenel

Nuclear structure studies with particle transfer reactions

This project will use nuclear reactions to study the basic make-up of atomic nuclei at the quantum level, and investigate the impact of nuclear structure on sub-atomic forces and fundamental physics. 

Dr AJ Mitchell, Professor Gregory Lane, Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Mr Ben Coombes

Nuclear vibrations in near-spherical and deformed nuclei

This project aims to discover if the long-held concept of low-energy nuclear vibrations holds true under scrutiny from Coulomb excitation and nucleon-transfer reactions. 

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Professor Gregory Lane, Dr AJ Mitchell, Mr Ben Coombes

Towards a global understanding of nuclear fission

Improved understandings of nuclear fission is key for many areas of science, including heavy element formation in supernova and neutron-star mergers, making safer nuclear reactors, and the formation and properties of long-lived superheavy isotopes. Students involved in this project will further our understanding of fission across the chart of nuclides.

Dr Kaitlin Cook, Emeritus Professor David Hinde, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta

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, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Dr Brendan McCormick

Time dependence of nuclear fusion

This project will allow us to understand the time-dependence of quantum tunnelling and nuclear fusion.

Dr Edward Simpson

Radioimpurities in particle detectors for dark matter studies

This experiment will characterise dark matter detector material. Lowest levels of natural radioactivity in high purity samples will be analysed via ultra-senstive single atom counting using acclerator mass spectrometry.

Dr Michaela Froehlich , Dr Zuzana Slavkovska, A/Prof Stephen Tims, Professor Gregory Lane

Nuclear magnetism - magnetic moment measurements

This project builds on our established track record of developing novel methods to measure magnetic moments of picosecond-lived excited states in atomic nuclei, and the theoretical interpretation of those measurements. Students will help establish new methodologies to underpin future international research at the world's leading radioactive beam laboratories.
 

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Professor Gregory Lane, Dr Brendan McCormick

Paving the way to study the chronology of the early solar system

Radionuclides can serve as tracers and chronometers for environmental processes. The time scale for these clocks is set by the half-life of the respective radioisotope. Using accelerator mass spectrometry and decay counting this project aims investigate the chronology of the Early Solar System.

Dr Stefan Pavetich, Dr Michaela Froehlich , A/Prof Stephen Tims, Mr Dominik Koll

Nuclear lifetimes - developing new apparatus and methods

The measurement of the lifetimes of excited nuclear states is foundational for understanding nuclear excitations. This project covers three measurement methods that together span the nuclear lifetime range from about 100 femtoseconds to many nanoseconds. The project can include equipment development, measurement, and the development of analysis methodology (programming and computation). 

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Professor Gregory Lane, Mr Ben Coombes

Ultra-fast lifetime measurements of nuclear excited states

Use ultra-fast gamma-ray detectors to perform excited-state lifetime measurements and investigate single-particle and collective features of atomic nuclei. 

Professor Gregory Lane, Dr AJ Mitchell, Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi

Quantum Science and Technology

Interactions between antimatter and ultracold atoms

Antiparticles and antimatter have progressed from theory and science fiction to become an important and exciting area of pure and applied science. This fundamental atomic physics project will investigate how antimatter and matter interact by experimentally studying the interaction of positrons (the electron anti-particle) with trapped ultracold rubidium atoms.

Dr Sean Hodgman, Professor Stephen Buckman, Dr Joshua Machacek

Theoretical Physics

Quantum drivers to nuclear fission

Large scale quantum many body simulations are performed to study the quantum shell effects that determine the final properties of the nuclear fission fragments. 

Professor Cedric Simenel

Impact of nuclear structure on dark matter direct detection

Quantum many-body modelling of the atomic nucleus will help us understand how dark matter particles interact with atomic nuclei, as well as how many scattering events we can expect in underground laboratory search for dark matter. 

Professor Cedric Simenel

Time dependence of nuclear fusion

This project will allow us to understand the time-dependence of quantum tunnelling and nuclear fusion.

Dr Edward Simpson

Nuclear magnetism - magnetic moment measurements

This project builds on our established track record of developing novel methods to measure magnetic moments of picosecond-lived excited states in atomic nuclei, and the theoretical interpretation of those measurements. Students will help establish new methodologies to underpin future international research at the world's leading radioactive beam laboratories.
 

Professor Andrew Stuchbery, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi, Professor Gregory Lane, Dr Brendan McCormick