Master Projects

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Master Thesis Research Projects

The following Master thesis research projects are offered at Nikhef. If you are interested in one of these projects, please contact the coordinator listed with the project.



The XENON Dark Matter Experiment: Data Analysis

The XENON collaboration is currently operating the XENON100 detector, currently the world’s most sensitive direct detection dark matter experiment. The detector operates at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory and consists of a so-called dual-phase xenon time-projection chamber filled with 160kg of ultra-pure xenon. The detector has been operational for a number of years and data is available for analysis. Our group has an opening for a motivated MSc student to do data-analysis on the detector. The work would consist of understanding the signals that come out of the detector and in particular focus on the so-called double scatter events. We are interested in developing methods in order to understand the response of the detector better. We are developing sophisticated statistical tools in order to do this. Due to the nature of the work, some familiarity with C++ is required.

Contact: Patrick Decowski

XAMS Dark Matter R&D Setup

The Amsterdam Dark Matter group has built an R&D xenon detector at Nikhef. The detector is a dual-phase xenon time-projection chamber and contains about 4kg of ultra-pure liquid xenon. We plan to use this detector for the development of new detection techniques (such as utilizing new photosensors) and to improve the understanding of the response of liquid xenon to various forms of radiation. The results could be directly used in the XENON experiment, the world’s most sensitive direct detection dark matter experiment at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory. We have several interesting projects for this facility. We are looking for someone who is interested in working in a laboratory on high-tech equipment, modifying the detector, taking data and analyzing the data him/herself. You will "own" this experiment.

Contact: Patrick Decowski

The Modulation experiment

There exist a few measurements that suggest an annual modulation in the activity of radioactive sources. With a few groups from the XENON collaboration we have developed four sets of table-top experiments to investigate this effect on a few well known radioactive sources. The experiments are under construction in Purdue University (USA), a mountain top in Switzerland, a beach in Rio de Janeiro and the last one at Nikhef in Amsterdam. We urgently need a master student to (1) do the final commissioning of the experiment, (2) collect the 1st big data set, and (3) analyse the first data. We are looking for an all-round physicist with interest in both lab-work and data-analysis. The student will directly collaborate with the other groups in this small collaboration (around 10 people), and the goal is to have the first publication ready by the end of the project.

Contact: Auke Colijn

Testing general relativity with gravitational waves

The Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo detectors are gearing up to make the first direct detections of gravitational waves over the next few years, with a first observing run scheduled for September 2015. Among the most promising sources are mergers of binary systems consisting of neutron stars and/or black holes. The ability to observe the emitted gravitational wave signals will, for the first time, give access to the genuinely strong-field dynamics of general relativity (GR), thereby putting the classical theory to the ultimate test. The Nikhef group has developed a data analysis method to look for generic deviations from GR using signals from merging binary neutron stars. We are now extending this framework to binary black holes, which have much richer dynamics and will allow for more penetrating tests of GR, but which also pose significant new challenges. The student will study the end-to-end response of the analysis pipeline to signals predicted by GR as well as a range of alternative theories of gravity, by adding simulated waveforms to real detector noise. Basic programming skills in C, Python, or related languages are a prerequisite.

Contact: Chris Van Den Broeck

Search for lepton flavor violation in Z decays with ATLAS Run 2 data

The lepton flavor violation is a mechanism which is forbidden by Standard Model and is not observed so far in experiment. However, it could explain a large amount of matter (and lack of antimatter) found in the Universe. Such mechanism could manifest itself in decays of Z bosons to tau and another lepton. Unlike other lepton flavor violating decays this channel is easier to record and identify. At the same time, the background from Z -> tau+tau, mu+mu, e+e decays can mimic signal and reduction of background is a challenge. All steps of this measurement (analysis of ATLAS data, tuning cuts on MC, understanding the background and trigger performance) are part of the master project. The programing of the code, the data analysis with ROOT and ATLAS software will be everyday tasks.

Contact: Olya Igonkina

Acoustic detection of ultra-high energy cosmic-ray neutrinos

Experiment The study of the cosmic neutrinos of energies above 1017 eV, the so-called ultra-high energy neutrinos, provides a unique view on the universe and may provide insight in the origin of the most violent sources, such as gamma ray bursts, supernovae or even dark matter. The energy deposition of cosmic neutrinos in water induce a thermo-acoustic signal, which can be detected using sensitive hydrophones. The expected neutrino flux is however extremely low and the signal that neutrinos induce is small. TNO is presently developing sensitive hydrophone technology that is based on fiber optics. Optical fibers form a natural way to create a distributed sensing system. Using this technology a large scale neutrino telescope can be built in the deep sea. TNO is aiming for a prototype hydrophone which will form the building block of a future telescope. Students project

Students have the possibility to participate to this project is the following ways: (i) Modeling of cosmic rays induced acoustic signal in a neutrino telescope. Keywords: Cosmic rays, Monte Carlo, signal processing, telescope optimization. (ii) Testing and optimization of fiber optical hydrophone for a large scale neutrino telescope. Keywords: Experimental, physics, system design.

The work will be (partly) executed in Delft.

Further information Info on ultra-high energy neutrinos can be found at: Info on acoustic detection of neutrinos can be found at:

Contact: Ernst-Jan Buis

New physics from Higgs interactions with polarised W bosons

Higgs interactions with electroweak gauge bosons W+ and W- in the SM are a crucial, precisely defined part of the Standard Model. Measuring separately the Higgs coupling to longitudinally and transversely polarised bosons will determine, for the first time, if Higgs and gauge bosons are elementary, as predicted in the SM, or composite particles, indicating the presence of the BSM physics. The student will be involved in all steps of the analysis: Monte Carlo studies, the analysis of the ATLAS data and background rejection. The basic tools will include programming in C++ and Python and using ROOT.

Contact: Magdalena Slawinska

First KM3NeT data

The neutrino telescope KM3NeT is under construction in the Mediterranean Sea aiming to detect cosmic neutrinos. Its very first string with sensitive photodetectors will be deployed in the summer 2015. Already the very first detection unit will provide for the option to reconstruct in the detector the abundant muons stemming from interactions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere. The performance and calibration of the detector will be evaluated also in comparison with simulations. Procedures to identify and also reconstruct a background free sample of muons will be developed to verify the performance and potential of the detector and to pave the path towards the neutrino detection. Programming skills are essential, mostly root and C++ will be used.

Contact: Ronald Bruijn

Tau neutrino identification in the KM3NeT neutrino telescope

In order to uniquely identify neutrinos from cosmic sources a promising strategy is to focus on the tau neutrinos. This flavour is (almost) not expected to be produced in interactions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere so that a selection of tau neutrinos can provide for an almost background free sample of cosmic neutrinos. The signature of a tau neutrino interaction in the KM3NeT neutrino telescope is special as high energetic tau leptons created in the neutrino interaction will travel some length (>10m) in the detector before decaying so that two showers of particles are created (at the interaction and decay vertex) The project will use simulations to investigate possible methods for the identification of the tau signature in the KM3NeT neutrino telescope which is now under construction in the Mediterranean Sea. Programming skills are for this project essential, mainly C++ and root being used.

Contact: Dorothea Samtleben

Neutrino mass hierarchy with KM3NeT/ORCA

Neutrinos exist in three flavours and are known to oscillate between flavours whereby the detected flavour depends on the (partly) known oscillation parameters, the mass differences, their energy and travel length. The neutrino telescope KM3NeT is planning for a dedicated set of detection units in order to pursue an oscillation measurement of an unprecedented precision using neutrinos from atmospheric interactions and with this enabling the measurement of the so far still unknown neutrino mass hierarchy. The measurement of this subtle effect requires unprecedented precision in the reconstruction and identification of the flavour, energy and direction. Various projects are available in the reconstruction and evaluation of the mass hierarchy using dedicated simulations. Programming skills are essential, mainly C++ and root will be used.

Contact: Aart Heijboer

Bs->mumu and Bd->mumu normalization and B mesons hadronization probabilities

The measurement of the Bs-> mu mu and Bd->mu mu decays is one of the flagships of the LHCb experiment, the latest result in combination with CMS has recently been published on Nature. The aim of this project is to study the yields of other decays with a J/Psi in the final state, like B+ -> J/Psi K+ and Bs-> J/Psi Phi, that can be detected triggering on the muons decay products of the J/Psi. These yields are a crucial input to obtain the Bs-> mu mu and Bd->mu mu decays branching fraction as they provide a relative normalization. Moreover, in order to use Bd decays to normalize the Bs-> mu mu yields we need to measure the relative probabilities for a b quark to hadronize into a Bs (f_s) or a Bd (f_d) meson, that can also be obtained from B+ -> J/Psi K+, Bs-> J/Psi Phi and Bd-> J/Psi K* decays. The ratio f_s/f_d is not a constant and is therefore important to measure it as a function of both the energy in the center of mass of the pp collision and the B mesons kinematics. The combination of previous data at 7 and 8 TeV and data at 13 TeV from the LHC 2015 run will provide us important new insight and is a result worth a journal publication in his own right. For this project some programming skills are needed (PYTHON or C++). Some initial knowledge of the ROOT analysis framework is also useful. The student will perform his research in a group consisting of two seniors and two Ph.D. students engaged in the study of very rare decays of the B mesons to di-muon final states and the search for lepton-flavor violating final states (e.g. electron-muon). Relevant information: [1] R.Aaij et al. [LHCb Collaboration], ``Measurement of the fragmentation fraction ratio f_s/f_d and its dependence on B meson kinematics, JHEP 04 (2013) 001 [arXiv:1301.5286 [hep-ph]].

Contact: [mailto: Antonio Pellegrino] and Maarten van Veghel (PhD)

B meson Production asymmetries

At the LHC, B0 mesons and anti-B0 mesons are not produced in equal quantities (about 0.5% more B0 mesons than anti-B0 mesons). This production asymmetry can be measured with semileptonic decays of the type B0 -> D-(*) mu+ nu (and its charge conjugate decay). The goal of this measurement is to measure the asymmetry as function of the transverse momentum and (pseudo)-rapidity of the B0 (or anti-B0). This requires to unfold of the observed kinematic distributions.

Contact: Jeroen van Tilburg and Jacco de Vries

Quantum decoherence

When two particles are created in an anti-symmetric wave function, the two particles are entangled, even though they may be separated by large distances. If one of the particles is forced into one state (projection), this determines the other state instantaneously. Several theoretical models, motivated by quantum gravity effects, predict the existance of a decoherence parameter. Using decays of phi->K_S K_L, it is possible to measure this decoherence parameter by counting the number of phi decays where both neutral kaons are measured as K_S-> pi+ pi-. If this parameter is measured to be non-zero, it would mean that our current understanding of quantum mechanics is not complete.

Contact: [ Jeroen van Tilburg

A search for heavy neutrinos in the decay of W at LHCb

Neutrinos are arguably the most mysterious of all known fundamental fermions as they are both much lighter than all others and only weakly interacting. It is thought that the tiny mass of neutrinos can be explained by their mixing with so-far unknown, much heavier, neutrino-like particles. In this research proposal we look for these new neutrinos in the decay of the SM W-boson using data with the LHCb experiment at CERN. The W boson is assumed to decay to a heavy neutrino and a muon. The heavy neutrino subsequently decays to a muon and a pair of quarks. Both like-sign and opposite-sign muon pairs will be studied. The result of the analysis will either be a limit on the production of the new neutrinos or the discovery of something entirely new.

Contact: Wouter Hulsbergen and Elena Dall'Occo

Measurement of BR(B0->pi-Ds+) and BR(Bs->Ds-*pi+)/BR(Bs->Ds-pi+)

This project aims to measure the branching fraction of the decay B0->pi-Ds+. The decay B0->pi-Ds+ is quite rare, because it occurs through the transition of a b-quark to a u-quark. It has been measured at the B-factories only at modest precision (~12%). This decay is interesting, because

  1. It is sensitive to the CKM-element Vub, which determination is heavily debated.
  2. It can be used to determine the ratio r_pi=B0->pi-D+/B0->D-pi+ which in turn is needed for CP violation measurements.
  3. It can quantify non-factorisable QCD effects in certain B-decays.

The experimental challenge is to understand the background from e.g. Bs->Ds*pi decays. The aim is to also determine the relative branching fraction of Bs->Ds*pi relative to Bs->Dspi decays. This can is useful, because

  • It helps in the measurement of B0->pi-Ds+
  • It might quantify the magnitude of the ratio of form factors F(Bs->Ds*)/F(Bs->Ds*)

The aim is that this project results in a journal publication on behalf of the LHCb collaboration. For this project computer skills are needed. The ROOT programme and C++ and/or Python macros are used. This is a project that is closely related to three important analyses in the group:

  • Measurements of fs/fd with hadronic Bs->DsPi decays,
  • Time dependent CP violation analysis of Bs->DsK decays.

Weekly video meetings with CERN coordinate the efforts with in the LHCb collaboration.

Contact: Niels Tuning and Mick Mulder

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