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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

Quantum Monte Carlo Simulations of anharmonic phonons: a possible route to high-temperature superconductivity

Quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) simulations are a vital tool for simulating systems of interacting electrons. Our group is using this technique to study electrons interacting with lattice vibrations (phonons) in crystal structures as a possible route to high-temperature superconductivity. Our particular interest is the case where the anharmonic terms of the atomic potential are significant, which we believe can lead to strong electron binding. The student on this project is responsible for running and testing QMC code, which will be used to test our hypothesis. The student will gain experience working with QMC simulations in the context of quantum materials and will gain some programming experience. 

Advisor: Professor Steven Johnston

Neural networks in quantum mechanics:

Deep learning has become a new tool to address complex problems in social sciences and is promising research direction in artificial intelligence. However, it has also the potential the help solving problems in physics such as problems in quantum mechanics.
We are looking for an undergraduate student that will help us to review existing research on solving quantum mechanical problems with neural networks. The student will then solve quantum mechanical problems using modern neural network libraries such as tensorflow. The ultimate goal is to find out whether such approaches can be used in current problems.

Advisor:  Professor Lucas Platter


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 the characterization and response 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

Beta-NMR and polarized decay of radioactive species for nuclear structure and biological studies 

Beta detected nuclear magnetic resonance has proven to be an invaluable technique to determine the spin and magnetic moment in order to study the nuclear structure of exotic radioactive species.  Due to its high sensitivity the beta-NMR with radioactive traces implanted in biological material has been demonstrated in diluted DNA samples.  This high performance experiments requires the development of beta and gamma detectors capable of operating in the high magnetic field of a NMR setup.  The student will work in testing new detector assemblies, characterizing them with sources and, schedule permitting, participate in beta-NMR experiment at the ISOLDE facility at CERN. Familiarity with the GNU/Linux operating system and the c++ programming language is recommended.

Advisor:  Professor Miguel Madurga

Calculating the transverse energy from measured spectra of a Quark Gluon Plasma

A hot, dense liquid of quarks and gluons called the Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) is formed when nuclei are collided at relativistic speeds in heavy ion collisions. There is some debate in this field about whether or not this medium is formed in smaller systems, such as proton-proton and deuteron-gold collisions. The energy density can be estimated from measurements of the amount of energy transverse to the incoming beam of ions. The energy density is used as a benchmark to demonstrate the feasibility of the formation of the QGP. Measurements in heavy ion collisions can be cross checked and the energy density in small systems can be estimated using the published momentum spectra of produced particles. This project will entail calculating the transverse energy from measured spectra and estimating the systematic uncertainties on these measurements in order to cross check measurements in heavy ion collisions and estimate the energy densities produced in small collision systems.

Advisor:  Dr. Soren Sorensen

Preparing for a new neutron lifetime experiment

A new experiment planned at the High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL will set strong limits on the possible transformation of neutrons into an invisible "mirror" partner, hypothesized to explain the neutron lifetime puzzle and as a possible candidate for dark matter.  The sensitivity of this experiment depends critically on the backgrounds in the large area neutron detector due to cosmogenic neutrons, neutrons scattering from other instruments, and gamma radiation.  The main focus of this project is to characterize backgrounds from these sources using a variety of detectors.  The efficiency and energy response of the detectors will be studied using calibration sources.  The background rate as a function of position in the experimental hall, time, and reactor conditions will also be measured.  Finally, different shielding materials and geometries will be studied for reduction in background rate.

Advisor:  Dr. Lea Broussard