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

Determining the orbital characteristics of a constellation of nano-sats orbiting the Moon

There is no lunar GPS so how will satellite orbits be determined for safety and efficiency in designing missions.

Professor Roderick Boswell

Optimising a Neutron Star Extreme Matter Observatory

Following a practical introduction to optical interferometry for gravitational wave detectors and simulation tools, this project will model the optical configuration to optimize detector performance against a number of possible predictions of the neutron star equation of state.

Dr Bram Slagmolen, Dr Lilli (Ling) Sun, Dr Vaishali Adya, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Active orbital control systems for nano-sats orbiting the Moon

Active plasma thrusters are needs for in orbit manouvers and for arranging constellations of satellites. 

Professor Roderick Boswell

Design a rail gun to operate in vacuum producing a force of 1mN

Can electrical launch systems replace chemical systems in launching nano-satellites from the Moon?

Professor Roderick Boswell

In space, no-one can hear you scream. Is this true?

Thrusters for propulsion generally require nozzles but is this necessary in the vaccum of space?

Professor Roderick Boswell

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

Space radiation modelling

Modelling space radiation environments to inform ground-based radiation testing at the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF).

Dr Ian Carter, Mr Ben Coombes

Launching nano-satellites from the Earth's Moon

Generally chemical propulsion is used to launch satellites from the moon. Is it possible to use available resources instead?

Professor Roderick Boswell

Reducing Entropy in Lunar Supply Chains

It costs a lot to get material to the Moon. Can available materials on the Moon's surface be used? 

Professor Roderick Boswell

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

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

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.

Professor Ben Buchler

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

Biophysics

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

Engineering in Physics

Fibre Optic Sensor Arrays for Vibrometry and Acoustic Sensing

By leveraging hybrid digital-optical methods, we develop new distributed and quasi-distributed fibre-optic acoustic sensors. These acoustic sensors aim to measure vibration, strain and displacement all while localising the signal source along an optical fibre.

Dr Chathura Bandutunga , , Dr Paul Sibley, A/Prof Malcolm Gray

Determining the orbital characteristics of a constellation of nano-sats orbiting the Moon

There is no lunar GPS so how will satellite orbits be determined for safety and efficiency in designing missions.

Professor Roderick Boswell

Optimising a Neutron Star Extreme Matter Observatory

Following a practical introduction to optical interferometry for gravitational wave detectors and simulation tools, this project will model the optical configuration to optimize detector performance against a number of possible predictions of the neutron star equation of state.

Dr Bram Slagmolen, Dr Lilli (Ling) Sun, Dr Vaishali Adya, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Exploring physics with neural networks

Machine learning based on deep neural networks is a powerful method for improving the performance of experiments.  It may also be useful for finding new physics.

Dr Aaron Tranter, Professor Ben Buchler, Professor Ping Koy Lam

Active orbital control systems for nano-sats orbiting the Moon

Active plasma thrusters are needs for in orbit manouvers and for arranging constellations of satellites. 

Professor Roderick Boswell

Design a rail gun to operate in vacuum producing a force of 1mN

Can electrical launch systems replace chemical systems in launching nano-satellites from the Moon?

Professor Roderick Boswell

In space, no-one can hear you scream. Is this true?

Thrusters for propulsion generally require nozzles but is this necessary in the vaccum of space?

Professor Roderick Boswell

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, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi

Vibration control for optical interferometry

Develop an active vibraiton isolation platform to provide a quiet, small displacement environment for high precision inteferometry.

Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Launching nano-satellites from the Earth's Moon

Generally chemical propulsion is used to launch satellites from the moon. Is it possible to use available resources instead?

Professor Roderick Boswell

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, Dr Ian Carter, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Professor David Hinde

Engineering Inter-spacecraft laser links

Inter-satellite laser links are an emerging technology with applications in Earth Observation, telecommunications, security, and, the focus of the CGA space technology group. Inter-satellite laser ranging is an enabling technology to for geodesy/gravity recovery for global water or climate monitoring on Earth (NASA/Germany GRACE Follow-On mission), planetary science like NASA’s lunar GRAIL mission, and the same technology needed to detect the merging of super-massive black hole mergers (e.g. LISA mission).

A/Prof Kirk McKenzie, A/Prof. Andrew Sutton

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

Reducing Entropy in Lunar Supply Chains

It costs a lot to get material to the Moon. Can available materials on the Moon's surface be used? 

Professor Roderick Boswell

Materials Science and Engineering

Nanowire Photodetectors for Photonic and Quantum Systems

Semiconductor nanowires are emerging nano-materials with substantial opportunities for novel photonic and quantum device applications. This project aims at developing a new generation of high performance NW based photodetectors for a wide range of applications.

Professor Lan Fu, Dr Ziyuan Li, Professor Hoe Tan

Mathematical making

Explore the geometry and symmetries of surfaces and other mathematical objects and explore their relevance in physical, chemical and biological contexts. 

Dr Vanessa Robins

Measurement of optical and mechanical losses of mirror coatings

Gravitational wave detectors have reached the thermodynamic limit of optical coating performance and require novel coating materials and noise mitigation techniques for further sensitivity improvements. This project is to construct an experiment that measures oscillation amplitude decays of mechanical systems for determining key properties of optical coatings.

Dr Johannes Eichholz, Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Higher-order spatial mode optical cavity analysis for thermal noise measurements

Gravitational wave detectors have reached the thermodynamic limit of optical coating performance and require novel coating materials and noise mitigation techniques for further sensitivity improvements. This project investigates the behaviour of higher order spatial laser modes in optical resonators for measuring coating thermal noise directly.

Dr Johannes Eichholz, Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

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

Developing wearable sensors for personalized health care technologies and solutions

This is a multidisciplinary project supported by the ANU Grand Challenge project ‘Our Health in Our Hands’ (OHIOH), aimed at developing wearable sensors for detecting target biomarkers to identify certain health conditions.

Dr Buddini Karawdeniya, Prof Dragomir Neshev, Prof Patrick Kluth, Professor Lan Fu

Creating new materials using pressure and diamond anvil cells

New forms of materials can be made using extreme pressures via diamond anvil cells.

Prof Jodie Bradby

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Nanowire lasers for applications in nanophotonics

This project aims to investigate the concepts and strategies required to produce electrically injected semiconductor nanowire lasers by understanding light interaction in nanowires, designing appropriate structures to inject current, engineer the optical profile and developing nano-fabrication technologies. Electrically operated nanowire lasers would enable practical applications in nanophotonics.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, Professor Hoe Tan

Quantum-well nanowire light emitting devices

In this project we aim to design and demonstrate  III-V compound semiconductor based quantum well nanowire light emitting devices with wavelength ranging from 1.3 to 1.6 μm for optical communication applications.

Professor Lan Fu, Dr Ziyuan Li, Professor Hoe Tan, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Nanowire infrared avalanche photodetectors towards single photon detection

This project aims to demonstrate semiconductor nanowire based infrared avalanche photodetectors (APDs) with ultra-high sensitivity towards single photon detection. By employing the advantages of their unique one-dimensional nanoscale geometry, the nanowire APDs can be engineered to different device architectures to achieve performance superior to their conventional counterparts. This will contribute to the development of next generation infrared photodetector technology enabling numerous emerging fields in modern transportation, communication, quantum computation and information processing.

Professor Lan Fu, Mr Yi Zhu, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Micro-ring lasers for integrated silicon photonics

The project aims to investigate compound semiconductor micro-ring lasers on silicon substrates using selective area growth to engineer the shape of the lasing cavity at the nano/micro-scale. This project will open up new doors to the industry since an integrated laser which is reliable, efficient and easily manufacturable is still elusive in Si photonics.

Professor Hoe Tan, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Developing wearable sensors for personalized health care technologies and solutions

This is a multidisciplinary project supported by the ANU Grand Challenge project ‘Our Health in Our Hands’ (OHIOH), aimed at developing wearable sensors for detecting target biomarkers to identify certain health conditions.

Dr Buddini Karawdeniya, Prof Dragomir Neshev, Prof Patrick Kluth, Professor Lan Fu

Photonics, Lasers and Nonlinear Optics

Machine learning for optics and controls

Optical cavities are widely used in physics and precision measurement.  This project will explore the use of modern machine learning methods for the control of suspended optical cavities.  

Dr Bram Slagmolen

Fibre Optic Sensor Arrays for Vibrometry and Acoustic Sensing

By leveraging hybrid digital-optical methods, we develop new distributed and quasi-distributed fibre-optic acoustic sensors. These acoustic sensors aim to measure vibration, strain and displacement all while localising the signal source along an optical fibre.

Dr Chathura Bandutunga , , Dr Paul Sibley, A/Prof Malcolm Gray

Nanowire lasers for applications in nanophotonics

This project aims to investigate the concepts and strategies required to produce electrically injected semiconductor nanowire lasers by understanding light interaction in nanowires, designing appropriate structures to inject current, engineer the optical profile and developing nano-fabrication technologies. Electrically operated nanowire lasers would enable practical applications in nanophotonics.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, Professor Hoe Tan

Nanowire Photodetectors for Photonic and Quantum Systems

Semiconductor nanowires are emerging nano-materials with substantial opportunities for novel photonic and quantum device applications. This project aims at developing a new generation of high performance NW based photodetectors for a wide range of applications.

Professor Lan Fu, Dr Ziyuan Li, Professor Hoe Tan

Measurement of optical and mechanical losses of mirror coatings

Gravitational wave detectors have reached the thermodynamic limit of optical coating performance and require novel coating materials and noise mitigation techniques for further sensitivity improvements. This project is to construct an experiment that measures oscillation amplitude decays of mechanical systems for determining key properties of optical coatings.

Dr Johannes Eichholz, Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Low-noise offset-phase locking and heterodyne interferometry with 2┬Ám-band lasers

Gravitational wave detectors have reached the thermodynamic limit of optical coating performance and require novel coating materials and noise mitigation techniques for further sensitivity improvements. This project is to implement a phase tracking system for the optical beat between two 2µm-band lasers for coating thermal noise measurements.

Dr Johannes Eichholz, Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Higher-order spatial mode optical cavity analysis for thermal noise measurements

Gravitational wave detectors have reached the thermodynamic limit of optical coating performance and require novel coating materials and noise mitigation techniques for further sensitivity improvements. This project investigates the behaviour of higher order spatial laser modes in optical resonators for measuring coating thermal noise directly.

Dr Johannes Eichholz, Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Quantum-well nanowire light emitting devices

In this project we aim to design and demonstrate  III-V compound semiconductor based quantum well nanowire light emitting devices with wavelength ranging from 1.3 to 1.6 μm for optical communication applications.

Professor Lan Fu, Dr Ziyuan Li, Professor Hoe Tan, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Nanowire infrared avalanche photodetectors towards single photon detection

This project aims to demonstrate semiconductor nanowire based infrared avalanche photodetectors (APDs) with ultra-high sensitivity towards single photon detection. By employing the advantages of their unique one-dimensional nanoscale geometry, the nanowire APDs can be engineered to different device architectures to achieve performance superior to their conventional counterparts. This will contribute to the development of next generation infrared photodetector technology enabling numerous emerging fields in modern transportation, communication, quantum computation and information processing.

Professor Lan Fu, Mr Yi Zhu, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Micro-ring lasers for integrated silicon photonics

The project aims to investigate compound semiconductor micro-ring lasers on silicon substrates using selective area growth to engineer the shape of the lasing cavity at the nano/micro-scale. This project will open up new doors to the industry since an integrated laser which is reliable, efficient and easily manufacturable is still elusive in Si photonics.

Professor Hoe Tan, Professor Chennupati Jagadish

Satellite based geodesy

Precise Earth gratitational field measurements with laser-ranging interferometry.

Dr Syed Assad, Professor Ping Koy Lam, Mr Lorcan Conlon

Quantum squeezed states for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors

Using non-classical light states on laser interferometric gravitational-wave detectors, to further enhance the best length measurement devices in the world.

Distinguished Prof David McClelland, Professor Daniel Shaddock, Dr Bram Slagmolen

Physics of the Nucleus

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, Professor David Hinde, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta

Nuclei that fall apart: understanding 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, Professor David Hinde

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

Creating new superheavy elements

The discovery of new elements is of fundamental importance in progressing our society – new elements have contributed human history toward an affluent society. This project aims at proposing the best way to create new superheavy elements based on our studies, and at creating new superheavy elements with the best way. 

Dr Taiki Tanaka, Professor David Hinde, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta

Characterisation and optimisation of an ionization detector system for probing dissipation effects

Characterisation and optimisation of ionization detector system for probing dissipation effects in multi-nucleon transfer reactions

Dr Ian Carter, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Professor David Hinde, Mr Ben Swinton-Bland

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, Emeritus Professor Tibor Kibedi

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

Space radiation modelling

Modelling space radiation environments to inform ground-based radiation testing at the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF).

Dr Ian Carter, Mr Ben Coombes

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, Dr Ian Carter, Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, Professor David Hinde

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

Exploring physics with neural networks

Machine learning based on deep neural networks is a powerful method for improving the performance of experiments.  It may also be useful for finding new physics.

Dr Aaron Tranter, Professor Ben Buchler, Professor Ping Koy Lam

Quantum super resolution

When two point sources of light are close together, we just see one blurry patch. This project aims to use coherent measurement techniques in quantum optics to measure the separation between the point sources beyond the Rayleigh's limit.

Dr Syed Assad, Professor Ping Koy Lam

Beam matching using machine learning

This project aims to use a machine learning algorithm to perform beam alignment in an optics experiment. It would involve mode-matching two optical beams using motorised mirror mounts. Additional degrees of freedom like lens positions and beam polarisation can be added later.

Dr Syed Assad, Dr Aaron Tranter

Quantum multi-parameter estimation

Multi-parameter state estimation at the fundamental precision limit

Dr Syed Assad, Professor Ping Koy Lam, Mr Lorcan Conlon

Dual torsion pendulum for quantum noise limited sensing

Construct a small dual tosion pendulum which have their centre of mass co-incide and their rotational axis colinear. Inital diagnostics will be done using shadow sensors.

Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

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.

Professor Ben Buchler

Vibration control for optical interferometry

Develop an active vibraiton isolation platform to provide a quiet, small displacement environment for high precision inteferometry.

Dr Bram Slagmolen, Distinguished Prof David McClelland

Experimental quantum simulation with ultracold metastable Helium atoms in an optical lattice

This project will construct a 3D optical lattice apparatus for ultracold metastable Helium atoms, which will form an experimental quantum-simulator to investigate quantum many-body physics. A range of experiments will be performed such as studying higher order quantum correlations across the superfluid to Mott insulator phase transition.

Dr Sean Hodgman, Professor Andrew Truscott

Satellite based geodesy

Precise Earth gratitational field measurements with laser-ranging interferometry.

Dr Syed Assad, Professor Ping Koy Lam, Mr Lorcan Conlon

Quantum squeezed states for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors

Using non-classical light states on laser interferometric gravitational-wave detectors, to further enhance the best length measurement devices in the world.

Distinguished Prof David McClelland, Professor Daniel Shaddock, Dr Bram Slagmolen

Theoretical Physics

Mathematical making

Explore the geometry and symmetries of surfaces and other mathematical objects and explore their relevance in physical, chemical and biological contexts. 

Dr Vanessa Robins

Quantum multi-parameter estimation

Multi-parameter state estimation at the fundamental precision limit

Dr Syed Assad, Professor Ping Koy Lam, Mr Lorcan Conlon

Introduction to quantum integrable systems

The aim of this project is to introduce quantum integrable systems which play a very important role in modern theoretical physics. Such systems provide one of very few ways to analyze nonlinear effects in continuous and discrete quantum systems.

Dr Vladimir Mangazeev

Stochastic dynamics of interacting systems and integrability

There are many interesting physical statistical systems which never reach thermal equilibrium. Examples include surface growth, diffusion processes or traffic flow. In the absence of general theory of such systems a study of particular models plays a very important role. Integrable systems provide examples of such systems where one can analyze time dynamics using analytic methods.

Dr Vladimir Mangazeev

Updated:  5 July 2022/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPhys/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster