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Projects for Summer 2018

Gravitational Wave Signature from Core-Collapse Supernova Simulations

The goal of this project is to calculate the gravitational wave signatures from our supernova groupís state-of-the-art 3D core collapse supernova signatures. This is publishable work. Moreover, it has the added benefit of potential collaboration and publication with the LIGO supernova working group.

Advisors: Professor Tony Mezzacappa

Core-Collapse Supernova Simulations

This project involves the extension of our Boltzmann neutrino kinetics code, which was developed for spherically symmetric core collapse supernova simulations, to three spatial dimensions. This is also publishable work, but would have a longer horizon.

Advisors: Professor Tony Mezzacappa

Non-equilibrium phase transitions in cancer growth and fracture dynamics

Many dynamical systems exhibit transitions in their behavior.  For example, a particular strain within a cell population, such as a tumor, may either spread or go extinct.  Similarly, a crack network in a brittle material may either spread, causing failure, or terminate.  For this project, the student will explore one of these transitions, focusing on how the geometry and composition of either the cancerous tissue or the material influences the dynamical transition.  How does the shape of the tumor boundary, for example, influence the extinction or propagation of a strain within the tumor?  To study these dynamics, students will apply the tools of stochastic analysis and statistical mechanics.  Simple, efficient simulations will be constructed that will elucidate the basic features of these transitions.  There will be opportunities to perform this work at Oak Ridge National Lab.  The student should have a strong interest in mathematical, computational work!  Experience programming with C/C++ or Python is desired but not required.

Advisors: Professor Maxim Lavrentovich

Control of low magnetic fields

A new generation of neutron experiments will need to use a magnetic field with controlled 3D magnitude and direction in the range < 1 Gauss inside the experimental volume.  The challenge of this research will be in development and testing of magnetometers and data acquisition systems for performance in vacuum and under irradiation with neutrons; it also will include the study of 3D magnetic field uniformity created by the coils with the current in the experimental volume. This research will lead to practical implementation of the magnetic control system in several new experiments with cold neutrons, e.g. in HFIR experiments at ORNL and in experiments at the European Spallation Source in Sweden.

Advisor: Professor Yuri Kamyshkov

Development of methods of neutron manipulation

A neutron has no electric charge and therefore its motion can not be affected by electric field devices.  In a constant magnetic field the neutron spin will undergo Larmor precession, but the trajectory of the neutron can not be changed.  Using neutron reflection from the surface of supermirrors we are going to design a reflection mirror with a special shape that will both focus neutrons emitted from the cold neutron source in a large solid angle and at the same time will bend the neutron beam to the angles as big at 2 degrees. This new design will be later implemented in experiments with cold neutrons at the European Spallation Source in Sweden.

Advisor: Professor Yuri Kamyshkov

Simulations of cold neutron experiments with McStas

In this project a student will learn tu use the software instrument McStas for simulations of experiments with cold neutrons. The sensitivity of new-proposed neutron oscillation experiments with the ANNI neutron beam at the European Spallation Source and with the PF1B neutron beam will be studied as examples.

Advisor: Professor Yuri Kamyshkov

Relativistic Heavy Ion Physics

The relativistic heavy ion group studies the properties of the Quark Gluon Plasma produced in high energy heavy ion collisions.  The hot, dense medium produced in these collisions reaches temperatures over a million times hotter than the core of the sun and energy densities approximately 15 times those of normal nuclear matter.  The QGP, dubbed the Perfect Liquid, has the lowest viscosity to entropy density of any fluid ever measured. Our group works on both the PHENIX experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.  Students working with our group will primarily do data analysis using the C++-based program ROOT.  While the details of the project may be adapted depending on the interests and skills of the student and the needs of the group, we envision students studying energy loss in the QGP by studying jets in the ALICE experiment.  A jet is the collimated spray of particles created when a high energy parton (quark or gluon) hadronizes, or breaks down into lower mass and energy particles.  By reconstructing jets the energy of the parton can be partially or wholly reconstructed.  Undergraduate projects will involve developing and testing techniques for measuring jets or working on quantitative comparisons between measurements of jets and models developed by the JETSCAPE collaboration.

Advisor:  Professor Christine Nattrass

Neutrino Physics with Liquid Argon time Projection Chambers

The current and next generation neutrino experiments are aimed at resolving some of the very important open questions in particle physics such as Charge-Parity violation with neutrinos (important for understanding matter/anti-matter asymmetry in the Universe), Sterile neutrinos (are there more types of neutrinos?), supernovae neutrinos (astrophysical phenomena), and nucleon decay searches (proton decay is not observed till date). There is a lot of active on-going effort on building advanced detector technologies to achieve the precision we need to make these measurements.  The Liquid argon time projection chamber (LArTPC) technology is currently driving the neutrino physics program.  I am actively involved in the MicroBooNE LArTPC experiment which is located at Fermilab (Illinois) and is taking neutrino data.  I am also a collaborator on the SBND LArTPC experiment which is currently being built at Fermilab.  The summer project would involve analysis and hardware opportunities with both experiments and a possibility to travel to Fermilab to take part in the construction and assembly of the SBND experiment.

Advisor:  Professor Sowjanya Gollapinni

Synthesizing and characterizing magnetically frustrated materials

The study of frustrated magnets challenges fundamental understanding of many-body physics, while offering opportunities to realize excitation and quasiparticles for new functionalities. Heterostructures and interfaces provide an excellent gateway to control and lift geometric frustration but are yet to be explored. In this study, we look for highly self-motivated undergraduate students to contribute to the first and crucial step toward creating oxide heterostructures of frustrated magnetic systems. In particularly, the student will receive training on the synthesis and characterizations of ceramic targets for thin film deposition. This project has components in both solid state chemistry and solid-state physics and will be an integrated part of our investigation on frustrated interfaces. The studentís contributions will be credited in co-authored publications. Through the hands-on experience, the student to gain exposure to the frontier of condensed matter physics and academic research.

Advisor:  Professor Jian Liu

Future Pixel Detectors for the LHC

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be upgraded for very high intensity beams. This requires the development of very fast and robust charged particle detectors. We are testing such prototypes pixel detectors in the laboratory here at UT with a FPGA based readout. Detector are silicon or diamond based, and resolve 2D or 3D track positions of charged particles. The setup will be then taken to a test beam at Fermilab in Chicago. The project includes preparation of the electronic readout to test detectors with radioactive sources and possibly participation in a test beam.

Advisor:  Professor Stefan Spanier

Scanning-Probe Chemical Mapping of New Materials

The tunneling of the quanta of longitudinal waves in the electron gas of metals (surface plasmons) is used in a unique scanning-probe chemical mapping instrument.  Resolution is well beyond the Rayleigh diffraction limit of conventional systems.  Samples of major interest include graphene bordered with boron nitride and other samples of importance in research on potential materials that can partially replace silicon in modern integrated circuits.  Additional related interests include research on novel spectroscopic concepts that can be adapted to our scanning probes.  These interests are closely tied to the very different works of two Nobelists in recent years by combining key aspects of each and adding instrumentation developed solely by our group.  The student will work at JIAM.

Advisor:  Dr. Thomas Ferrell

Supernova Nucleosynthesis in 3D

We model the deaths of massive stars in core-collapse supernovae with two and three dimensional simulations.  Many of the most important observations, which can tell us if our models are correct, depend on the new atomic nuclei that are produced in the explosion.  The student will assist in running our nucleosynthesis calculations and visualizing the results so that we may better understand the nuclear contributions from these exploding stars.

Advisor:  Professor Raph Hix

These are old projects that were available for summer 2017.



Neutrino Coherent Scattering

A new type of neutrino interaction with mater, called Neutrino Coherent Scattering, has been theorized to exist since 1974. So far all efforts to see this process were not successful.  The reason is that is very difficult to see.  Recent significant progress in the development of low threshold detectors and the availability new powerful neutrino source like Spallation Neutron Source at ORNL bring the possibility tof seeing neutrino coherent scattering within reach.  Working on that project, a student will gain extensive hardware and/or software experience.   The project requires the student to spend most of his/her research time at ORNL.

Advisor:  Professor Yuri Efremenko


Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) for Electric Grid Security

Cybersecurity for the systems responsible for the operation of the nationís electric grid is critically important.  An important tool in this effort is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which is a means of generating identical random bit strings at two remote locations.  Unfortunately, very little is known about how a QKD network would perform in a grid environment.  This project addresses that gap by building a data-based model of a QKD network designed specifically to meet the cybersecurity needs of a metro-size electric grid.  The model will be built to incorporate realistic estimates of: the number and location of SCADA devices; the quantity and sensitivity of network traffic; and the performance characteristics of the fiberoptic network, including the location and availability of dark fiber. Programming experience will be helpful, as well as an interest in quantum information.  For an overview of our research group at ORNL, please visit     

Advisor:  Dr. Warren Grice


Commissioning of a state-of-the-art Angle- and Spin-Resolved Photoemission Spectrometer.

The Advanced Photoelectron Spectrometer (APS) is a unique instrument centered on an x-ray photoelectron spectrometer with angle- and spin- resolution.  This instrument, funded in 2009 through the NSF-MRI program and built by Specs, is one of the Recharge Centers in the Joint Institute for Adanced Materials (JIAM).  The instrument combines unique capabilities: 1) a monochromatized X-ray source with two different energies (Al Kα = 1486 eV and Ag Lα = 2984 eV) with micro-spot of ≈ 130 mm for analysis of very small or inhomogeneous samples, and 2) a state-of-the-art hemispherical electron analyzer provisioned with a mini-Mott detector for electron spin detection.  The detector allows the parallel acquisition of spin resolved and non-spin resolved data.  The monochromaticity of the x-ray source guarantees both high energy resolution, while the availability of two energies allows accessing different probing depths, ranging from more surface sensitive measurements involving the Al Ka line, towards a less surface sensitive regime measurements carried out with the Ag Lα line.  The APS is a premiere instrument for the determination of the electronic structure of materials.

A summer internship is available for a highly motivated undergraduate student who would like to carry out the final battery of tests necessary for the commissioning the system to the JIAM community.  The candidate will have the chance to learn about the scientific and instrumentational principle of core and valence Photoemission Spectroscopy.

Advisor:  Professor Norman Mannella

High-Power Beam Test Facility measurements and data analysis

The Spallation Neutron Source accelerator has constructed a high power Beam Test Facility as a functional duplicate of the first section of the SNS accelerator.  The BTF is being used as a platform for testing new accelerator hardware and for conducting novel, high impact beam dynamics research.  One of the first experiments planned on the BTF is a complete measurement of the full six-dimensional phase space of the ion beam.  To date this measurement has never been performed on any accelerator.  The measurement will provide critical missing information about correlations within six independent beam phase space variables.  The summer project will involve data taking on the BTF, analysis of data from the experiments, and automation of data analysis methods. 

Advisor:  Dr. Sarah Cousineau



This project is mainly experimental and introduces the students to neutrino physics.  The student working in this project will spend some of his/her time working with the neutrino physics group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the 85 MW HFIR.  Robust antineutrino detection near a reactor would enable precise measurements of the reactor antineutrino flux and spectrum, allow the search for sterile neutrino oscillation over meter-long baselines, and demonstrate the concept of reactor monitoring with surface deployable detectors for safeguard applications.  The student will be involved in background measurements and construction of the PROSPECT detector.

Advisor:  Dr. Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri



This project is mainly experimental and introduces the students to the most sensitive experiments of double beta decay.  After evidence for neutrino oscillations was obtained from the results of atmospheric, solar, reactor, and accelerator neutrino experiments renewed interest in neutrinoless double beta decay has seen a significant renewal.  The student working in this project will spend some of his/her time working with the neutrino physics group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Advisor:  Dr. Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri



A new charged particle detector is in R&D phase.  Its small dimensions permits extremely compact, light and robust mechanical design ideal for a detector with large solid angle and comparable angular resolution to that of the most advanced gamma-array detector in the world.  The student working in this project will spend some of his/her time working with the nuclear structure physics group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and participate in experiments.  The project constitutes an opportunity for undergraduate students to learn how different particle-gamma experiments are used to unveil different properties of nuclei.

Advisor:  Dr. Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri


Few-body calculations for nuclear physics

Scattering observables such as differential cross sections and transition amplitudes give us unique insight into the interactions that bind nucleons together to larger nuclei.  It is also the most reliable way to determine the parameters used in any model to describe the nucleon-nucleon interactions.  Such calculations require, however, significant numerical effort when a scattering process with more than 2 particles is considered.
We are looking for an undergraduate student that would like to participate in the development of such a numerical framework. The student will develop and test code that is part of a larger effort to describe three-nucleon scattering at low energies. Experience with an advanced programming language such a C or C++ is required.

Advisor:  Professor Lucas Platter

Searching for physics beyond the Standard Model via Neutron Beta Decay

We know that the Standard Model of particle physics is incomplete (doesnít include gravity) and not entirely correct (it is formulated with massless neutrinos, which have been shown to have mass, for example).  One path for identifying additional weaknesses in the Standard Model is neutron beta decay, where one of the up quarks transforms into a down quark via the emission of a W boson, which subsequently decays into an electron and anti-neutrino.  This process is a rich experimental ground for testing the standard model.  I am involved in two such efforts: Nab at the Spallation Neutron Source as well as the Beam Lifetime experiment at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD.  The summer project will involve work to commission the Nab experiment as well as work with a novel new silicon detector system to be used for both experiments, possibly with tests using a proton beam at ORNL.

Advisor:  Professor Nadia Fomin