2020 Summer Students
31 Jan 2020





Full details of how to apply can be found from our main Summer Student page.


We require completed CVs, along with a Letter of Recommendation from your university tutor, by 21st February 2020.


Possible projects include the following.

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



Upgrade Strip-Tracker Module Production

The ATLAS detector is one of two large general purpose detectors designed to probe new physics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. During the year 2025, the LHC has an ambitious upgrade program, known as the High Luminosity (HL-)LHC that will greatly extend the statistical sensitivity to new physics. To achieve this, the LHC will shut down for a period of ~3 years to allow for improvements to the LHC accelerator systems. The HL-LHC will increase the luminosity of the proton beam by a factor of between five and seven, meaning that the average number of particle interactions per passing beam crossing increases greatly. Therefore the HL-LHC presents an extremely challenging environment to the ATLAS experiment, beyond that it was originally designed. An upgrade of the ATLAS detector is needed to cope with the high radiation environment. RAL is involved in the upgrade of the silicon tracking detector, the ITk, which surrounds the interaction region of the ATLAS experiment. The tracker measures the momentum and trajectory of charged particles. Silicon strip detector modules will be built and tested here and we are looking for a summer student to join our team during the pre-production phase. The student will be involved in the testing and assembly of each of the module components and will have the opportunity to study data collected at DESY testbeams.

Proposed Dates: Anytime after 22nd of June 

Desired Skills: Knowledge of C++ and Linux.

Upgrade Strip-Tracker Module Loading

This project is ear-marked for students from SEPnet Universities.

Preparing for the High-Luminosity Phase of the LHC operation, the ATLAS Experiment will undergo significant upgrades of hardware in 2025/26. Production, in particular for new parts of the Inner Tracker (ITk), will start in 2021 and therefore needs to be prepared now. Robotic Gantry systems at RAL will be used to monitor precision positioning of £12M worth of silicon modules on carbon-fibre support structures. Students will be working on LabView programs used to operate the robotic gantry, running image acquisition and processing, as well as automatic glue dispensing.

Proposed Dates: Starting as early as June until early September

Desired Skills: Programming (anything really), any hardware understanding is a nice-to-have

Upgrade Pixel-Endcap Assembly

The Upgraded ATLAS Pixel Tracker will be the biggest pixel detector system ever built, with over a billion detector channels.  RAL will be a key player in the assembly of the Pixel Endcaps. RAL will assemble hybrid pixel detector modules onto lightweight carbon-fibre half-rings for the Upgrade.

Over the next few months we will continue our work on precision placement of detector modules onto the half-rings. We seek a student to undertake refinement of placement methods, and measurement of the achievable placement accuracy. This will be carried out using our high-precision motorised gantry system, equipped with a camera, laser displacement sensor and adhesive dispense system. Specific tasks include calibrating the accuracy of the gantry itself, using a laser interferometer and comparing the gantry to a coordinate measuring machine by surveying standard test objects. We will look at the automation of vacuum switching between the vacuum chucks in the system, to handle detector modules in a more automated way. We will build prototype detector assemblies, which will be tested by our collaborators to verify the electrical and cooling system design for the Upgrade. We will carry out trials with different candidate adhesives and dispensing methods, assembling dummy and mechanical grade components. As part of the work we must be able to test the electrical functionality of the detector modules before and after mounting to the half-ring structure. Equipment control using Labview software plays an important part of the work. We are currently working on improvements of the existing software, which controls detector module placement, adhesive deposition and survey. Opportunities exist to work on developing these improved programs.

Proposed Dates:

Desired Skills: We seek a dextrous student with good practical skills and patience. Some programming experience is needed for control of equipment and analysis of results. A basic understanding of experimental errors and statistics is important, as is basic mathematical proficiency. Experience of Labview software, Arduino or Raspberry Pi would be useful, but is not essential, as would knowledge of a mechanical CAD package.

ATLAS Trigger Upgrade

The ATLAS Trigger system makes fast real-time decisions on whether to keep data from interesting proton-proton collision events at the LHC to be studied later, or discard them. We can only keep about 1 in 100,000 collisions. The trigger software makes this selection by identifying characteristic features within the data, for example looking for tracks that could be from the decay of a Higgs or a new exotic particle. This requires a data centre with over 50,000 CPU cores. The trigger software is being upgraded ready for the start of a new period of LHC data-taking starting in 2021. You will analyse the performance of the new trigger software on data and simulation and help to optimise the performance to maximise the ATLAS physics potential. You will implement improvements to the software and measure the changes.

Proposed Dates:

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


Reconstruction Algorithms for the Trigger Upgrade

The Large Hadron Collider will be upgraded to a much higher luminosity machine for operation beyond 2027. The resulting huge number of interactions (a few hundred) in each bunch crossing must be disentangled and to cope with this the CMS detector will be upgraded. A critical element is the first level of triggering which must decide on whether an event has the potential to include evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model within a few microseconds. One completely new feature of this hardware trigger is the availability of tracks reconstructed in the Silicon Tracker. This enables algorithms to be executed at this trigger level that are beyond the capability of the current CMS detector. The student will study possible algorithms, such as the reconstruction of the origin of interactions, and evaluate how useful they are for triggering on interesting physics events as well their viability for implementation in programmable fast electronics (FPGAs). The project may include implementing these algorithms in FPGAs using Xilinx HLS.

Dark Matter

The Dark Matter group at RAL is involved in the construction of the LUX-ZEPLIN double-phase liquid Xenon detector at Homestake Mine in the US.  We are also involved in the R&D programme for the future G3 Liquid Xenon Dark Matter project. One of the R&D elements is to simulate and measure the so called "Migdal effect" the detection of which will significantly improve the detector sensitivity for low-mass WIMP searches. The success of the future experiment depends on a careful understanding of this effect. 

Our summer student will be involved in the modelling of the low-pressure optical time projection chamber and simulations of its response to low-energy electrons and nuclear recoils created in the process of the neutron scattering.

Proposed Dates: August, September

Other Projects

Designing and building Particle Physics Exhibits for Public Engagement

This project is ear-marked for students from SEPnet Universities.

The Particle Physics Department (PPD) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) participates in and supports the UK particle physics experimental programme. Our mission also includes public engagement and we run a number of Public Understanding of Science events for schools and the public. We are currently planning new exhibits to explain to the public our work, the science behind it and its broader applications. Once complete, these exhibits will be on display in the RAL visitor’s centre.

The student will help with the design and delivery of these exhibits. This will be a varied project involving the construction of models, electronics and programming. The student should have good practical skills and an interest in explaining science to the public.

Desired Skills: Experience of Arduino or Raspberry Pi programming would be useful, but is not essential.

Reading Ancient Scrolls

This project will look at a novel way of reconstructing archaeological finds using X-ray fluorescence measurements, in particular ancient writing on scrolls that were charred during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Whilst the suggested methodology is reasonably simple, a pin-hole x-ray camera that is energy sensitive, the extraction of the very faint signal over background will require careful analysis of the recorded data. Many measurements have already been made, but few of the data has yet been analysed and issues in the initial recording require a deeper understanding of the data and their analysis. The project will allow one to study the sensitivity of the apparatus, based on data recorded from templates, as well as trying to understand actual data recorded on a real object and giving the best shot a making a dream-come-true for the world of ancient classics and archaeology.

Most of the work will involve programming of data decoders and statistical analysis of that data using either Python or a programming language of your choice. Code exists (in Python and C++) to read in data files and generate simple plots (2D images, 1D energy spectra) of the existing data.

Desired Skills: Familiarity with Python or C++ would be helpful.


One of the two Herculaneum scrolls from L’Institut de France being scanned at Diamond Light Source by the University of Kentucky, Digital Restoration Initiative team.Boulby Underground Laboratory

Image result for boulby lab staff

The Boulby Underground Laboratory is situated 1.1 km underground at Boulby Mine in the North-East of England. It is a mult-disciplinary lab, undertaking work associated with Dark Matter, Biology, Geology etc.

We are looking for a summer student to help us develop our outreach efforts here at Boulby. The student will help to create outreach material for display in our newly refurbished surface facility, help with filming and presenting live links to schools and outreach events from our underground laboratory, help us to create a strong presence at outreach events (such as the Daresbury Open Week) and help promote diversity in STEM in the local area. The student will also be involved in our latest outreach programme where we will be working with schools in the highlands and islands of Scotland to programme and operate robots remotely in our underground laboratory.

Desired Skills: We are looking for someone with a passion for science engagement who would be happy to find themselves both in front of and behind of a camera.

NOTE: This project would be located at the Boulby Mine near Whitby … a long way from the Rutherford Lab! it's an incredible experience working 1 km underground inside a clean room in a potash mine.

Contact: Haywood, Stephen (STFC,RAL,PPD)