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.

Projects with a 2021 start

ALICE: The next-generation multi-purpose detector at the LHC

This main goal of this project is to focus on the next-generation multi-purpose detector planned to be built at the LHC. Its core will be a nearly massless barrel detector consisting of truly cylindrical layers based on curved wafer-scale ultra-thin silicon sensors with MAPS technology, featuring an unprecedented low material budget of 0.05% X0 per layer, with the innermost layers possibly positioned inside the beam pipe. The proposed detector is conceived for studies of pp, pA and AA collisions at luminosities a factor of 20 to 50 times higher than possible with the upgraded ALICE detector, enabling a rich physics program ranging from measurements with electromagnetic probes at ultra-low transverse momenta to precision physics in the charm and beauty sector.

Contact: Panos Christakoglou and Alessandro Grelli and Marco van Leeuwen

ALICE: Searching for the strongest magnetic field in nature

In case of a non-central collision between two Pb ions, with a large value of impact parameter (b), the charged nucleons that do not participate in the interaction (called spectators) create strong magnetic fields. A back of the envelope calculation using the Biot-Savart law brings the magnitude of this filed close to 10^19Gauss in agreement with state of the art theoretical calculation, making it the strongest magnetic field in nature. The presence of this field could have direct implications in the motion of final state particles. The magnetic field, however, decays rapidly. The decay rate depends on the electric conductivity of the medium which is experimentally poorly constrained. Overall, the presence of the magnetic field, the main goal of this project, is so far not confirmed experimentally.

Contact: Panos Christakoglou

ALICE: Looking for parity violating effects in strong interactions

Within the Standard Model, symmetries, such as the combination of charge conjugation (C) and parity (P), known as CP-symmetry, are considered to be key principles of particle physics. The violation of the CP-invariance can be accommodated within the Standard Model in the weak and the strong interactions, however it has only been confirmed experimentally in the former. Theory predicts that in heavy-ion collisions, in the presence of a deconfined state, gluonic fields create domains where the parity symmetry is locally violated. This manifests itself in a charge-dependent asymmetry in the production of particles relative to the reaction plane, what is called the Chiral Magnetic Effect (CME). The first experimental results from STAR (RHIC) and ALICE (LHC) are consistent with the expectations from the CME, however further studies are needed to constrain background effects. These highly anticipated results have the potential to reveal exiting, new physics.

Contact: Panos Christakoglou

ALICE: Machine learning techniques as a tool to study the production of heavy flavour particles

There was recently a shift in the field of heavy-ion physics triggered by experimental results obtained in collisions between small systems (e.g. protons on protons). These results resemble the ones obtained in collisions between heavy ions. This consequently raises the question of whether we create the smallest QGP droplet in collisions between small systems. The main objective of this project will be to study the production of charm particles such as D-mesons and Λc-baryons in pp collisions at the LHC. This will be done with the help of a new and innovative technique which is based on machine learning (ML). The student will also extend the studies to investigate how this production rate depends on the event activity e.g. on how many particles are created after every collision.

Contact: Panos Christakoglou and Alessandro Grelli

ALICE: Energy Loss of Energetic Quarks and Gluons in the Quark-Gluon Plasma

One of the ways to study the quark-gluon plasma that is formed in high-energy nuclear collisions, is using high-energy partons (quarks or gluons) that are produced early in the collision and interact with the quark-gluon plasma as they propagate through it. There are several current open questions related to this topic, which can be explored in a Master's project. For example, we would like to use the new Monte Carlo generator framework JetScape to simulate collisions to see whether we can extract information about the interaction with the quark-gluon plasma. In the project you will collaborate with one of the PhD students or postdocs in our group to use the model to generate predictions of measurements and compare those to data analysis results. Depending on your interests, the project can focus more on the modeling aspects or on the analysis of experimental data from the ALICE detector at the LHC.

Contact: Marco van Leeuwen and Marta Verweij

ALICE: Extreme Rare Probes of the Quark-Gluon Plasma

The quark-gluon plasma is formed in high-energy nuclear collisions and also existed shortly after the big bang. With the large amount of data collected in recent years at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, rare processes that previously were not accessible provide now new ways to study how the quark-gluon plasma emerges from the fundamental theory of strong interaction. One of such processes is the heavy W boson which in many cases decays to two quarks. The W boson itself doesn’t interact with the quark-gluon plasma because it doesn’t carry color, but the quark decay products do interact with the plasma and therefore provide an ideal tool to study the space-time evolution of this hot and dense medium. In this project you will use data from the ALICE detector at the LHC and simulated data from generators to study various physics mechanisms that could be happening in the real collisions.

Contact: Marta Verweij and Marco van Leeuwen

ALICE: Jet Quenching with Machine Learning

Machine learning applications are rising steadily as a vital tool in the field of data science but are relatively new in the particle physics community. In this project machine learning tools will be used to gain insights into the modification of a parton shower in the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). The QGP is created in high-energy nuclear collisions and only lives for a very short period of time. Highly energetic partons created in the same collisions interact with the plasma while they travers it and are observed as a collimated spray of particles, known as jets, in the detector. One of the key recent insights is that the internal structure of jets provides information about the evolution of the QGP. With data recorded by the ALICE experiment, you will use jet substructure techniques in combination with machine learning algorithms to dissect the structure of the QGP. Machine learning will be used to select the regions of radiation phase space that are affected by the presence of the QGP.

Contact: Marta Verweij and Marco van Leeuwen

ATLAS: Top Spin and EFTs in the Wtb vertex

The top quark has an exceptional high mass, close to the electroweak symmetry breaking scale and therefore sensitive to new physics effects. Theoretically, new physics is well described in the EFT framework [1]. The (EFT) operators are experimentally well accessible in single top t-channel production where the top quark is produced spin polarized. The focus at Nikhef is the operator O_{tW} with a possible imaginary phase, leading to CP violation. Experimentally, many angular distribution are reconstructed in the top rest frame to hunt for these effects. There are several challenging analysis-topics for master students, which can also be tailored a bit your interests: 1) MC study EFT effects from background substraction. 2) NLO reweighting (as function of EFT parameters) based on Madgraph 3) Kinematic Fitter neural network estimation vs analytic as available 4) Pt dependent analysis of existing analysis 5) Make a combination with a higgs channel? (difficult) 6) Make a combination with other top channels? (difficult)

More info in this presentation: and/or in the video:


Contact: Marcel Vreeswijk [1] and Jordy Degens [2]

ATLAS: The Next Generation

After the observation of the coupling of Higgs bosons to fermions of the third generation, the search for the coupling to fermions of the second generation is one of the next priorities for research at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The search for the decay of the Higgs boson to two charm quarks is very new [1] and we see various opportunities for interesting developments. For this project we propose improvements in reconstruction (using exclusive decays), advanced analysis techiques (using deep learning methods) and expanding the theory interpretation. Another opportunity would be the development of the first statistical combination of results between the ATLAS and CMS experiment, which could significantly improve the discovery potentional.


Contact: Tristan du Pree

ATLAS: The Most Energetic Higgs Boson

The production of Higgs bosons at the highest energies could give the first indications for deviations from the standard model of particle physics, but production energies above 500 GeV have not been observed yet [1]. The LHC Run-2 dataset, collected during the last 4 years, might be the first opportunity to observe such processes, and we have various ideas for new studies. Possible developments include the improvement of boosted reconstruction techniques, for example using multivariate deep learning methods. Also, there are various opportunities for unexplored theory interpretations (using the MadGraph event generator), including effective field theory models (with novel ‘morphing’ techniques) and new interpretations of the newly observed boosted VZ(bb) process.


Contact: Tristan du Pree

ATLAS: Searching for new particles in very energetic diboson production

The discovery of new phenomena in high-energy proton–proton collisions is one of the main goals of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). New heavy particles decaying into a pair of vector bosons (WW, WZ, ZZ) are predicted in several extensions to the Standard Model (e.g. extended gauge-symmetry models, Grand Unified theories, theories with warped extra dimensions, etc). In this project we will investigate new ideas to look for these resonances in a region that is yet unexplored in the data. We will focus on the final states where both vector bosons decay into quarks as they are expected to bring the highest sensitivity [1]. We will try to reconstruct and exploit the polarisation of the vector bosons (using machine learning methods) and then tackle the problem of estimating contributions from beyond the Standard Model processes in the tails of the mass distribution.


Contact: Flavia de Almeida Dias

ATLAS R&D: Study of LGAD sensors

The Atlas detector has been installed more than a decade ago. Several upgrades of the detector are being worked on that will adapt the ATLAS experiment to the so-called High Luminosity LHC. A new (sub)detector that will be installed and become part of the Atlas detector is the High-Granularity Timing Detector (HGTD) detector. The HGTD will measure very precisely the passage time of particles in the detector and will help identify from which of the plurious proton-proton collisions the particle originates from. The HGTD is partly made of LGAD sensors. These are granulated silicon sensors dedicatedly designed for the HGTD. In this project we will characterise the LGAD sensors.

Contact: Hella Snoek

LHCb: Measuring differences between electrons and muons, beyond the Standard Model

A current “hot topic” in the field of particle physics is the potential violation of lepton-universality. At the LHCb experiment, lepton-universality tests are performed by looking at the ratio of decays into muons and into electrons/taus. Recent measurements in meson modes show hints (2 ? 3?) of lepton non-universality. Baryonic modes, however, have been less studied and provide an independent test of lepton-universality. At Nikhef, we study the decay Lambdab->Lambda l+l- , where l can be an electron or a muon. There are two possible project topics:

1. Identifying novel analysis techniques in the high di-lepton invariant mass region. Electrons in this region undergo more Bremsstrahlung, and therefore have a worse momentum resolution, meaning background from the resonant Psi(2S) mode can leak into our signal. Since we expect most of our signal in this region, it is important to improve this, most likely using machine learning techniques.

2. Identifying, simulating, and setting up a rejection for partially reconstructed Lambdab->Lambda* l+l- backgrounds. By not fully reconstructing the excited Lambda*0, we can mis-reconstruct it as a signal candidate. Machine learning techniques could be explored.

Contact: Lex Greeven and Niels Tuning

LHCb: Searching for dark matter in exotic six-quark particles

3/4 of the mass in the Universe is of unknown type. Many hypotheses about this dark matter have been proposed, but none confirmed. Recently it has been proposed that it could be made of particles made of the six quarks uuddss. Such a particle could be produced in decays of heavy baryons. It is proposed to use Xi_b baryons produced at LHCb to search for such a state. The latter would appear as missing 4-momentum in a kinematically constrained decay. The project consists in optimising a selection and applying it to LHCb data. See arXiv:1708.08951

Contact: Patrick Koppenburg

With the Dark Matter group: Fine structure constant

The fine-structure constant has been measured by many experiments in the past and it is one of the most precisely known constants in nature. The goal of this project is to design and build an experiment to do an in-house measurement of the fine structure constant by investigating positron annihilation to two and to three photons. The work within this project encompasses the full breadth of experimental physics: from a conceptual design to the final analysis of the data. In addition, there is a budget of 10kEuro available to purchase the necessary hardware for the project. Supervision will be done by Colijn and the Nikhef director Bentvelsen.

Contact: Auke-Pieter Colijn

Dark Matter: Sensitive tests of wavelength-shifting properties of materials for dark matter detectors

Rare event search experiments that look for neutrino and dark matter interactions are performed with highly sensitive detector systems, often relying on scintillators, especially liquid noble gases, to detect particle interactions. Detectors consist of structural materials that are assumed to be optically passive, and light detection systems that use reflectors, light detectors, and sometimes, wavelength-shifting materials. MSc theses are available related to measuring the efficiency of light detection systems that might be used in future detectors. Furthermore, measurements to ensure that presumably passive materials do not fluoresce, at the low level relevant to the detectors, can be done. Part of the thesis work can include Monte Carlo simulations and data analysis for current and upcoming dark matter detectors, to study the effect of different levels of desired and nuisance wavelength shifting. In this project, students will acquire skills in photon detection, wavelength shifting technologies, vacuum systems, UV and extreme-UV optics, detector design, and optionally in C++ programming, data analysis, and Monte Carlo techniques.

Contact: Tina Pollmann and Patrick Decowski

Dark Matter: Building better Dark Matter Detectors - the XAMS R&D Setup

The Amsterdam Dark Matter group operates 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 use this detector for the development of new detection techniques - such as utilizing our newly installed silicon photomultipliers - and to improve the understanding of the response of liquid xenon to various forms of radiation. The results could be directly used in the XENONnT experiment, the world’s most sensitive direct detection dark matter experiment at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory, or for future Dark Matter experiments like DARWIN. 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 and Auke Colijn

Dark Matter: Searching for Dark Matter Particles - XENONnT Data Analysis

The XENON collaboration has used the XENON1T detector to achieve the world’s most sensitive direct detection dark matter results and is currently starting the XENONnT successor experiment. The detectors operate at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory and consist of so-called dual-phase xenon time-projection chambers filled with ultra-pure xenon. Our group has an opening for a motivated MSc student to do analysis with the new data coming from the XENONnT detector. The work will consist of understanding the detector signals and applying a deep neural network to improve the (gas-) background discrimination in our Python-based analysis tool to improve the sensitivity for low-mass dark matter particles. The work will continue a study started by a recent graduate. There will also be opportunity to do data-taking shifts at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy.

Contact: Patrick Decowski and Auke Colijn

Dark Matter: The Ultimate Dark Matter Experiment - DARWIN Sensitivity Studies

DARWIN is the “ultimate” direct detection dark matter experiment, with the goal to reach the so-called “neutrino floor”, when neutrinos become a hard-to-reduce background. The large and exquisitely clean xenon mass will allow DARWIN to also be sensitive to other physics signals such as solar neutrinos, double-beta decay from Xe-136, axions and axion-like particles etc. While the experiment will only start in 2027, we are in the midst of optimizing the experiment, which is driven by simulations. We have an opening for a student to work on the GEANT4 Monte Carlo simulations for DARWIN, as part of a simulation team together with the University of Freiburg and Zurich. We are also working on a “fast simulation” that could be included in this framework. It is your opportunity to steer the optimization of a large and unique experiment. This project requires good programming skills (Python and C++) and data analysis/physics interpretation skills. Contact: Patrick Decowski and Auke Colijn

Detector R&D: Performance of the ALPIDE monolithic active pixel sensor with radiation damage

The ALICE inner tracking system (ITS) 2 is currently being installed at the large hadron collider (LHC) at CERN. This detector makes use of ultra-lightweight monolithic active pixel sensors, the first to use this technology at a particle collider after the STAR experiment at RHIC in Brookhaven. These very thin pixel detectors have a low power consumption, result in very little material in the detector, and still have optimal timing and resolution -- and are a promising technology for future experiments. You will be part of the international ALICE collaboration and investigate the ALICE ALPIDE chip. Although ALICE will not see high levels of radiation at the LHC, it has so far not been tested whether this chip can withstand very high levels of radiation and could be, if there is no large degradation in performance, be used in experiments like ATLAS as well. You will be part of the Nikhef R&D group where you will learn about new detector technologies for high energy physics and learn to design a test setup to characterize the ALPIDE chip in a particle beam using the many instruments at the Nikhef R&D labs. You will then test the chip at the Delft or Groningen facilities that provide a particle beam.

Contact: Jory Sonneveld

Detector R&D: Characterisation of Trench Isolated Low Gain Avalanche Detectors (TI-LGAD)

The future vertex detector of the LHCb Experiment needs to measure the spatial coordinates and time of the particles originating in the LHC proton-proton collisions with resolutions better than 10 um and 50 ps, respectively. Several technologies are being considered to achieve these resolutions. Among those is a novel sensor technology called Trench Isolated Low Gain Avalanche Detector. Prototype pixelated sensors have been manufactured recently and have to be characterised. Therefore these new sensors will be bump bonded to a Timepix4 ASIC which provides charge and time measurements in each of 230 thousand pixels. Characterisation will be done using a lab setup at Nikhef, and includes tests with a micro-focused laser beam, radioactive sources, and possibly with particle tracks obtained in a test-beam. This project involves data taking with these new devices and analysing the data to determine the performance parameters such as the spatial and temporal resolution. as function of temperature and other operational conditions.

Contacts: Kazu Akiba and Martin van Beuzekom

Detector R&D: Simulating the performance of the ATLAS pixel detector after years of radiation

The innermost detector of the ATLAS experiment at the large hadron collider (LHC) that is closest to the beam pipe is the ATLAS pixel detector. The pixel sensors in this area receive the highest amounts of radiation and their performance suffers accordingly. To better understand the effects of radiation damage and to be able to predict the future performance, the pixel sensors are modeled using programs such as technology computer aided design (TCAD) for modeling electric fields that serves as input for programs such as AllPix2 for modeling observables affecting the signal quality such as charge collection efficiency. In this project, you will learn to use TCAD, a tool widely used in the semiconductor industry, to model electric field maps of the sensor, and get an estimate of the uncertainties by comparing the prediction for different models. You will compare your simulations to real data from the ATLAS experiment as well as to data from test beams. You will work in an international environment within the ATLAS collaboration and be part of the Nikhef detector R&D group where you will learn about the newest detector technologies for high energy physics and beyond. Your improved predictions for the performance of the next ATLAS pixel detector will help ATLAS better prepare for future LHC data taking after the installation of this detector in 2025.

Contact: Jory Sonneveld

Detector R&D: Studying fast timing detectors

Fast timing detectors are the solution for future tracking detectors. In future LHC operation conditions and future colliders, more and more particles are produced per collision. The high particle densities make it increasingly more difficult to separate particle trajectories with the spatial information that current silicon tracking detectors provide. A solution would be to add very precise (in order of 10ps) timestamps to the spatial measurements of the particle trackers. A good understanding of the performance of fast timing detectors is necessary. With the user of a pulsed laser in the lab we study the characteristics of several prototype detectors.

Contact: Hella Snoek or Kazu Akiba

Detector R&D: Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) - Wavefront sensors for gravitational wave detection

The space-based gravitational wave antenna LISA is one of the most challenging space missions ever proposed. ESA plans to launch around 2030 three spacecraft separated by a few million kilometres. This constellation measures tiny variations in the distances between test-masses located in each satellite to detect gravitational waves from sources such as supermassive black holes. LISA is based on laser interferometry, and the three satellites form a giant Michelson interferometer. LISA measures a relative phase shift between one local laser and one distant laser by light interference. The phase shift measurement requires sensitive wavefront sensors. The Nikhef DR&D group fabricated prototype sensors in 2020 together with the Photonics industry and the Dutch institute for space research SRON. As an MSc student, you will work on various aspects of the wavefront sensor development: study the performance of the epitaxial stacks of Indium-Gallium-Arsenide, setting up test benches to characterize the sensors, and performing the actual tests and data analysis.

Contact: Niels van Bakel

Detector R&D: Time tracking Cosmic rays

One of the main challenges in particle physics detector technologies is to perform precise time measurements while maintaining, or even improving, the excellent spatial resolution. New sensor prototypes need to be characterised using charged particles in order to determine the actual temporal resolution. Such a characterisation can be done for instance with high energy cosmic rays. In this project you will work on building, commissioning and characterising a compact timing cosmic ray setup, aiming to achieve a resolution better than 100 picoseconds. The work will take place in the R&D labs at Nikhef using a combination of existing detectors and readout electronics as well as new silicon detectors with internal gain (LGADs), and/or fast Micro Channel Plates (MCPs).

Contacts: Kazu Akiba and Martin van Beuzekom

Neutrinos: Searching for Majorana Neutrinos with KamLAND-Zen

The KamLAND-Zen experiment, located in the Kamioka mine in Japan, is a large liquid scintillator experiment with 750kg of ultra-pure Xe-136 to search for neutrinoless double-beta decay (0n2b). The observation of the 0n2b process would be evidence for lepton number violation and the Majorana nature of neutrinos, i.e. that neutrinos are their own anti-particles. Current limits on this extraordinary rare hypothetical decay process are presented as a half-life, with a lower limit of 10^26 years. KamLAND-Zen, the world’s most sensitive 0n2b experiment, is currently taking data and there is an opportunity to work on the data analysis, analyzing data with the possibility of taking part in a ground-breaking discovery. The main focus will be on developing new techniques to filter the spallation backgrounds, i.e. the production of radioactive isotopes by passing muons. There will be close collaboration with groups in the US (MIT, Berkeley, UW) and Japan (Tohoku Univ). Contact: Patrick Decowski

Neutrinos: acoustic detection of ultra-high energy neutrinos

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 astrophysical sources, such as gamma ray bursts, supernovae or even dark matter. In addition, the observation of high energy neutrinos may provide a unique tool to study interactions at high energies. The energy deposition of these extreme 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 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.

The work will be executed at the Nikhef institute and/or the TNO laboratories in Delft. In this project master students have the opportunity to contribute in the following ways:

Project 1: Hardware development on fiber optics hydrophones technology Goal: characterize existing prototype optical fibre hydrophones in an anechoic basin at TNO laboratory. Data collection, calibration, characterization, analysis of consequences for design future acoustic hydrophone neutrino telescopes; Keywords: Optical fiber technology, signal processing, electronics, lab.

Project 2: Investigation of ultra-high energy neutrinos and their interactions with matter. Goal: Discriminate the neutrino signals from the background noises, in particular clicks from whales and dolphins in the deep sea. Study impact on physics reach for future acoustic hydrophone neutrino telescopes; Keywords: Monte Carlo simulations, particle physics, neutrino physics, data analysis algorithms.

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 or Ivo van Vulpen

Neutrinos: Oscillation analysis with the first data of KM3NeT

The neutrino telescope KM3NeT is under construction in the Mediterranean Sea aiming to detect cosmic neutrinos. Its first few strings with sensitive photodetectors have been deployed at both the Italian and the French detector sites. Already these few strings provide for the option to reconstruct in the detector the abundant muons stemming from interactions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere and to identify neutrino interactions. In this project the available data will be used together with simulations to best reconstruct the event topologies and optimally identify and reconstruct the first neutrino interactions in the KM3NeT detector. The data will then be used to measure neutrino oscillation parameters, and prepare for a future neutrino mass ordering determination.

Programming skills are essential, mostly root and C++ will be used. Contact: Ronald Bruijn Paul de Jong

Neutrinos: Searching for New Heavy Neutrinos or Other Exotic Particles in KM3NeT

In this project we will be searching for a new heavy neutrino, looking at signatures created by atmospheric neutrinos interacting in the detector volume of KM3NeT-ORCA. The aim of this project is to study a specific event topology which appears as double blobs of signals detected separately by densely instrumented ORCA detector units. We will be exploiting the tau reconstruction algorithms to verify the possibility of ORCA to detect such signals and to estimate the potential sensitivity of the experiment as well. The data also opens up the possibility to search for other exotic new particles, such as magnetic monopoles. Basic knowledge of elementary particle physics and data analysis techniques will be advantageous. The knowledge of programming languages e.g. python (and possibly C++) and ROOT are advantageous but not mandatory.

Contact: Suzan B. du Pree Daan van Eijk Paul de Jong

Neutrinos: Dark Matter with KM3NeT-ORCA

Dark Matter is thought to be everywhere (we should be swimming through it), but we have no idea what it is. Using the good energy and angular resolutions of the KM3NeT neutrino telescope, we can search for Dark Matter signatures that originate from the center of our galaxy. In this project, we will search for such signatures using the reconstructed track and shower events with the KM3NeT-ORCA detector to discover relatively light Dark Matter particles. Since this year, the KM3NeT-ORCA experiment has 6 detection lines under the Mediterranean Sea: fully operational and continuously taking data. Using the available data, it is possible to compare data and simulation for different event topologies and to estimate the experiment's sensitivity. The project is suitable for a student who is interested to explore new physics scenarios and willing to develop new skills. Basic knowledge of elementary particle physics and data analysis techniques will be advantageous. The knowledge of programming languages e.g. python (possibly C++) and ROOT data analysis tool are advantageous but not mandatory.

Contact: Suzan B. du Pree Daan van Eijk

Neutrinos: the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE)

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) is under construction in the USA, and will consist of a powerful neutrino beam originating at Fermilab, a near detector at Fermilab, and a far detector in the SURF facility in Lead, South Dakota, 1300 km away. During travelling, neutrinos oscillate and a fraction of the neutrino beam changes flavour; DUNE will determine the neutrino oscillation parameters to unrivaled precision, and try and make a first detection of CP-violation in neutrinos. In this project, various elements of DUNE can be studied, including the neutrino oscillation fit, neutrino physics with the near detector, event reconstruction and classification (including machine learning), or elements of data selection and triggering.

Contact: Paul de Jong

Gravitational Waves: Computer modelling to design the laser interferometers for the Einstein telescope

A new field of instrument science led to the successful detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO detectors in 2015. We are now preparing the next generation of gravitational wave observatories, such as the Einstein Telescope, with the aim to increase the detector sensitivity by a factor of ten, which would allow, for example, to detect stellar-mass black holes from early in the universe when the first stars began to form. This ambitious goal requires us to find ways to significantly improve the best laser interferometers in the world.

Gravitational wave detectors, such as LIGO and VIRGO, are complex Michelson-type interferometers enhanced with optical cavities. We develop and use numerical models to study these laser interferometers, to invent new optical techniques and to quantify their performance. For example, we synthesize virtual mirror surfaces to study the effects of higher-order optical modes in the interferometers, and we use opto-mechanical models to test schemes for suppressing quantum fluctuations of the light field. We can offer several projects based on numerical modelling of laser interferometers. All projects will be directly linked to the ongoing design of the Einstein Telescope.

Contact: Andreas Freise

Gravitational Waves: Digging away the noise to find the signal

Gravitational Wave interferometers are extremely sensitive, but suffer from instrumental issues that produce noise that mimics astrophysical signals. This needs to be solved as much as possible before the data analysis. The problem is that instrumentalists don't know about analysis pipelines, and data analysts don't know about experimental details. We need your help to bridge the gap. This is a good opportunity to learn about both sides and contribute directly to a booming international field. We have several tools and new ideas for correlating noises with the state of the instrument. These need to be developed further, used on years of data, and written up. Will require Python, signal processing and statistics.

Contact: Bas Swinkels and Sarah Caudill

Theory: The electroweak phase transition and baryogenesis/gravitational wave production

In extensions of the Standard Model the electroweak phase transition can be first order and proceed via the nucleation of bubbles. Colliding bubbles can produce gravitational waves [1] and plasma particles interacting with the bubbles can generate a matter-antimatter asymmetry [2]. A detailed understanding of the dynamics of the phase transitions is needed to accurately describe these processes. One project is to study QFT at finite temperature and compare/apply methods that address the non-perturbative IR dynamics of the thermal processes [3,4]. Another project is to calculate the velocity by which the bubbles expand, which is an important parameter for gravitational waves production and baryogensis. A final option is to study the phase transition in conformal Higgs models, which naturally have a strong 1st order phase transition [5].

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Contact: Marieke Postma

Theory: Higgs inflation

The Higgs boson can drive cosmic inflation provided it has new couplings to gravity [1]. Although classically the model is in excellent agreement with the data, in the full quantum theory there are theoretical consistency issues. One possible project would be to embed Higgs inflation in [2] -- motivated to solve the Strong CP problem and explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry -- as the extended Higgs sector can alleviate the theoretical constraints. Another direction is to consider multiple new couplings to gravity [3], to see whether the ensuing inflationary dynamics allows for the production of primordial black holes.

[1] [2] [3]

Contact: Marieke Postma

Theory: Neutrinos, hierarchy problem and cosmology

The electroweak hierachy is radiatively stable if the quadratic term in the Higgs potential is generated dynamically. This is achieved in 'the neutrino option' [1] where the Higgs potential stems exclusively from quantum effects of heavy right-handed neutrinos, which can also generate the mass pattern of the oberved left-handed neutrinos. The project focusses on model building aspects (e.g. [2]) and the cosmology (e.g. leptogenesis [3]) of these set-ups.

[1] [2] [3]

Contact: Marieke Postma

Last year's MSc Projects