1 School of Physics and Astronomy Year 3 Project Catalogue Academic Year See the accompanying document "Year 3 Project Selection" for details about choosing projects and important deadlines. If you need any advice about projects, contact the Project Coordinator, Dr Bernard Richardson
2 Project No.: 3201 Project Type: ASTRO A toy model for star formation in galaxies Dr P Clark Observations of nearby galaxies show us that the rate at which stars form in a given patch of the galaxy depends on the molecular mass in the region also known as the Kennicutt-Schmidt (KS) relation. In the Milky Way, we know that star formation occurs in large clouds of molecular gas, often referred to as Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs). Using some simple assumptions about the properties of GMCs and the rate at which stars form within them, the student will explore the ways in which the observed KS can change. This will involve creating a simple computer program in IDL/Fortran/C(++)/Python to randomly sample from an underlying distribution of cloud properties. The student will learn the basic idea behind Monte Carlo modelling, and how to break up a large complex system into smaller, isolated components.
3 Project No.: 3202 Project Type: ASTRO How fast do molecular clouds grow? Dr P Clark Stars form in large clouds of molecular gas, often referred to as Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs). Observations show that these clouds come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes and masses, however there is much that we still do not understand. For example, we have very little idea as to how quickly these clouds can form and grow in mass, and whether this plays an important role in their ability to form stars. In this project, the student will examine several models for how clouds can accrete gas from the interstellar medium. This will involve designing a short computer program - in IDL/Fortran/C(++)/Python - to model the growth of ensembles of clouds. During the project the student will learn how to model complex, time-varying systems. This will also be a good introduction to physical processes that control the dynamics of the gas in the interstellar medium.
4 Project No.: 3203 Project Type: ASTRO How fast does star formation occur? Dr P Clark One of the key questions in star formation research is, how quickly do stars form? Typically, the research community is split into those that think it happens pretty quickly on a time-frame of a few Myr (for something like the Orion cluster) or those that think it occurs on timescales 10 times longer. One of the problems is that it is very difficult to measure the rate of star formation we see only a snapshot when we take an observation. One of the best estimates of the star formation rate (SFR) that is the mass of gas turned into stars per year comes from counting the numbers of stars that appear to be in a given stage of their evolution and comparing the relative numbers of stars in different stages for example comparing the number of stars that are still embedded in dense gas (which are very young) to the number that have no surrounding gas, except in the form of a small disc (which are relatively quite old). By using theory to estimate the ages and lifetimes of these stages, it is then possible for astronomers to get an estimate of the rate at which stars form in clouds. However the estimate relies on the idea that the SFR is constant in time, and there is evidence that this is not the case. In this project the student will use a computer to model stars forming and evolving within a cloud, and play with the underlying SFR. They will then count the stars at various evolution stages, and perform the same analysis that is currently applied to real observational data, to observe the SFR in this made-up star-forming region. The goal is to see whether the simple assumption of a constant SFR is causing researchers to over or underestimate the SFR in the real data. The student will learn how to model a timevarying system on a computer and use random number generators to mimic real-life stochastic processes.
5 Project No.: 3204 Project Type: ASTRO Galaxy evolution with Herschel and the Hubble Space Telescope Prof S A Eales Our deep Herschel surveys allow us to see dust-enshrouded galaxies back to very early times. However, the poor resolution of Herschel means that the galaxies just look like blobs on the images. Fortunately, the Hubble Space Telescope has been carrying out public surveys of many of the deep Herschel fields (the Cosmic Assembly Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey). The students will use a combination of the Herschel and Hubble data to investigate the evolution of galaxies, in particular how disk galaxies evolve into elliptical galaxies. The project will require the student to use a number of standard astronomy analysis packages and do some programming. No. of Students: 1 to 4
6 Project No.: 3205 Project Type: ASTRO Gas and dust in galaxies Prof S A Eales and Dr M W L Smith One of the Herschel surveys led from Cardiff was the Herschel Reference Survey, a survey of 323 nearby galaxies. Dr. Matt Smith has led a project with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope to map the molecular gas in these galaxies. The students will use these observations, taken in the CO 3-2 line, to compare the distributions of gas, dust and stars in these galaxies. By comparing the CO 3-2 data with observations in the CO 1-0 line, the students will also measure the temperature of the gas and investigate how this varies within the gaalxies. The project will require the student to use a number of standard astronomy analysis packages and do some programming.
7 Project No.: 3206 Project Type: ASTRO Towards gravitational wave astronomy Dr S Fairhurst The merger of black hole and/or neutron star binary systems is one of the most promising sources of events for gravitational wave detectors. These events are also expected to be visible in the electromagnetic spectrum, for example as Gamma Ray Bursts or kilonovae. This project will involve reviewing the expected gravitational wave and electromagnetic signals from various merger scenarios and proposing a joint gravitational wave and electromagnetic observing campaign to detect these signals. No. of Students: 1 to 3
8 Project No.: 3207 Project Type: ASTRO Star formation studies with the Herschel Space Observatory Dr P Hargrave The project aims to use the large amount of publicly available Herschel far-infrared data to study regions of star formation in our Galaxy. Objectives: i) To learn about Herschel and its data ii) To extract data from the Herschel data archive iii) To reduce and analyse those data iv) To compare the data with current theoretical predictions v) To place the data in context with previous observations vi) To confirm or disprove theoretical ideas of star formation The student(s) will spend their time working with state-of-the-art data from a telescope that is still orbiting, and the work may lead to the student(s) being involved in a research publication.
9 Project No.: 3208 Project Type: ASTRO X-ray pulsars Dr M Jackson Pulsars are rapidly rotating, highly magnetic neutron stars that are observed to pulse with every rotation. They are observed predominantly in the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray bands, and as they age, the high-energy emission vanishes, so that the oldest pulsars are observed in only the radio band. The second Fermi catalog of gamma-ray pulsars and the ATNF pulsar database list various parameters for most known pulsars. There is a wealth of additional information, however, which can be derived from the available data, such as phase-resolved spectra in high-energy wavebands. Additionally, correlation studies can be performed on the various pulsar parameters, in order to find patterns that can be used to validate or modify pulsar models. This topic inspires various possible independent projects, depending on an individual student s interests and skills. There is a possibility of such projects resulting in one or more publications. 1. Use the available catalogue data to perform correlation studies among the various tabulated parameters. From this, it may be possible to draw a conclusion about pulsar models and/or evolution. 2. Do a focused study of pulsars located within or near the Gould belt, and perhaps draw a conclusion about the importance of this region for star formation in the Milky Way. Each project could accommodate 2 or more students, and collaboration among students working on different pulsar projects is encouraged. No. of Students: 1 to 4
10 Project No.: 3209 Project Type: ASTRO Study of submillimetre sources detected with SPIRE Dr E Pascale The SPIRE instrument is providing a new set of measurements of the sky at 250, 350, and 500um of unprecedented resolution and wavelength coverage. The maps are revealing a population of sources dominating the far infrared background, and the star formation history of the Universe. Using SPIRE and ancillary data from the optical to the far-infrared, it is possible to study this population of distant galaxies. The physical properties (luminosity and temperature), their activity (rate at which they form stars), their morphology, and distance will be studied. The project requires analysing astronomical images using the IDL programming language.
11 Project No.: 3210 Project Type: ASTRO Coincidence analysis of Fermi and Gravitational Wave Data Prof B S Sathyaprakash The Fermi Gamma Ray Satellite publishes its data and some of this overlaps with the LIGO open data. Some sources of gamma ray bursts are expected to be preceeded by emission of a burst of gravitatioanl waves. In this project students will look for coincidences between Fermi GRB data and data from LIGO's fifth science run. Thsi project will help develop skills that are useful in statistical analysis of large and diverse data sets. This project requires proficiency in programming (in C and python), statistical analysis and data analysis. No. of Students: 1 to 2
12 Project No.: 3211 Project Type: ASTRO Gravitational wave data analysis Prof B S Sathyaprakash The aim of this project is to search for eccentric binaries in LIGO open data. Data from the fifth science run of the American LIGO interferometers is now publicly available. The student will apply matched filtering techniques to search for eccentric black hole binaries in this data. The aim of the project is to develop skills in statistical analysis techniques using state-of-the-art data from world class instruments but also search for sources never searched before.this project requires proficiency in programming (in C and python), statistical analysis and data analysis. No. of Students: 1 to 2
13 Project No.: 3212 Project Type: ASTRO Understanding binary black holes Prof B S Sathyaprakash Approximate solutions to Einstein's equations can be used to describe the orbits of black holes in binaries. In this project the student will use a class of such solutions, called post- Newtonian equations, to understand the nature of orbits in black hole binaries. In particular, the student will study the properties of gravitational waves emitted by different types of orbits and use machine algorithms to delineate different types of orbits using gravitational wave data. This project requires proficiency in programming (in C and python), analytical computations and data analysis. No. of Students: 1 to 2
14 Project No.: 3213 Project Type: ASTRO Optimal placement of gravitational wave detectors Dr P J Sutton Currently there exists a worldwide network of laser interferometers whose goal is the detection of gravitational wave signals. These interferometers are large L-shaped structures with arms extending up to several kilometers and whose sensitivity to gravitational wave signals varies over the sky. Due to their massive size the interferometers cannot be moved or rotated to target different areas of the sky as is possible with many traditional photon detecting telescopes. Instead it is necessary to locate the detectors about the globe so that the combined network of interferometers provide optimal coverage of the sky. The student will write matlab code describing the sensitivity of a gravitational wave detector as a function of sky location and gravitational wave polarization. They will then place detectors at different locations about the globe and assess how sensitive each configuration of interferometers is to gravitational waves from a variety of sky locations. This code may then be used to inform the choice of where to build future gravitational wave detectors including the planned Einstein Telescope. Recommended reading: Network sensitivity to geographical configuration by Searle et al., <http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/ >
15 Project No.: 3214 Project Type: ASTRO Survey of gravitational-wave burst sources for ground-based detectors Dr P J Sutton The aim of this project is to carry out a review of the astrophysics literature and compile a census of potential (known, expected, or hypothetical) sources of gravitational-wave bursts in the Hz band. The data compiled will include (where available) best estimates of the rate density and typical distance of sources, the signal strength and spectrum, and possible counterparts (electromagnetic, neutrino, or other). Where sufficient, this information will be used to estimate the rate at which current and proposed ground-based gravitational-wave detectors (LIGO, GEO, Virgo) might detect each system. No. of Students: 1 to 3
16 Project No.: 3215 Project Type: ASTRO Testing supernova models with gravitational waves Dr P J Sutton Gravitational waves are "ripples in the curvature of spacetime" that will provide a new view of the universe when observed. Supernovae will provide an exciting source of gravitational waves that will allow us to probe the physics of the exploding star. A variety of different processes occur during the supernova, with different signatures imprinted on the gravitational waves. The student will compare theoretical predictions for the gravitational- wave signature of supernova to the expected sensitivity of gravitational-wave detectors such as LIGO, Virgo, GEO, and the Einstein Telescope. The goal is to determine which processes may produce gravitational waves strong enough to be detected. This will involve a modest amount of programming in matlab to simulate supernovae in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and to compute the expected signal strength. Recommended reading: The gravitational-wave signature of core-collapse supernovae, by Christian Ott (http://arxiv.org/abs/ ).
17 Project No.: 3216 Project Type: MED PHYS Scattered radiation and image quality in radionuclide imaging Dr Helen Blundell The aim of this project is to investigate the influence of scattered radiation on contrast, noise and spatial resolution in planar radionuclide images. The main objectives are that you should become familiar with the operation of a digital gamma camera and use this to simulate a radioactive organ with a suitable phantom and overlying soft tissue with Perspex. You would be expected to investigate the effect of different thicknesses of Perspex (between the phantom and the gamma camera) on the pulse height spectrum and the ratio of counts in the Compton band and photopeak and investigate the effects on image quality of different thicknesses of Perspex and different pulse height acceptance windows. The degradation in image quality can then be related to Compton band and photopeak ratio. The project is run at the University Hospital of Wales and suitable for two students working together.
18 Project No.: 3217 Project Type: MED PHYS Evaluation of the effect of overlying tissue on ultrasound image quality Dr Kate Bryant The aim of this project is to design a method to investigate the effect of overlying tissue on ultrasound image quality.you would be expected to research, design and produce a suitable measurement method. You would then use this method to investigate the effect of overlying tissue onimage quality and measurement accuracy using ultrasound phantoms and studentvolunteers. No. of Students: 1 (or possibly 2)
19 Project No.: 3218 Project Type: MED PHYS Computer simulation of simple polymeric systems Dr M Elliott and Dr C C Matthai The aim of the project is to construct a polymer chain (example - a freely jointed chain) to model protein structures. The structural and thermodynamic properties of these chains will be investigated using both Python and powerful freely-available programs such as VMD (visual molecular dynamics) and NAMD or DLPOLY (for molecular dynamics). The emphasis is on using visualisation techniques to gain an insight into how real protein structures behave.the starting point will be to make simple models to learn to use the programs. Then, we shall set up some freely jointed chain models, where no potential energy terms (atomic forces) need be included. The free energy is determined by entropy alone in this case.there are many interesting basic questions we can try to answer: How is the entropy of a chain defined and measured? What is the rate at which the chain changes between configurations? If we take a single chain, will it "visit" all possible configurations with time, or would we need to start it off in a different initial configuration?this is a relatively new and open-ended project, with room for the student to explore their own ideas.
20 Project No.: 3219 Project Type: MED PHYS Patient comfort and deep vein thrombosis prevention Dr Rhys Morris The aim of this project is to determine how the design of physical devices used to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) affects the comfort of the patient wearing the device, and to determine how that will affect the haemodynamic response Physical methods of DVT protection require devices that wrap around the leg and apply pressure (intermittent pneumatic compression cuffs and graduated compression stockings), or apply mechanical or electrical stimulation to the leg. However, if a hospital patient finds any of these uncomfortable they will not use the device, and be at increased risk of DVT. In this project you would investigate ways of testing any discomfort caused by these devices, including heating of the leg, transport of sweat, pressure points and roughness. After making these measurements with standard and prototype device designs, you would then make design recommendations that could improve comfort, while maintaining their physiological effectiveness in moving blood. You would therefore be expected learn to use a Doppler ultrasound scanner to measure blood flow velocities in the deep veins of the legs. The work could be validated in a range of healthy volunteers, assessing the impact of different environmental conditions, body shapes, couches and beds, and body positions. The project is for a PAIR of students (since some of the experimental work will require cooperative experimental work). No. of Students: A Pair!
21 Project No.: 3220 Project Type: MED PHYS Use of database and network based tools to audit patient radiation dose in diagnostic radiology Mr Arnold Rust, Mr Matthew Ager and Mr Matthew Williams UK legislation (1) requires that patient radiation doses in diagnostic radiology are compared against national and local diagnostic reference levels as a means of ensuring that these are optimised. A national protocol exists (2) outlining the method to be used by medical physicists to assist radiology departments in undertaking audits and to assist the radiation Employer in setting local diagnostic reference levels. In the past, such audits have been a time-consuming process with data being collected manually in advance of processing into reports. However, with the development of radiology information systems, patient radiation dose data are stored electronically and therefore are more accessible. Development of software tools and network based data mining systems have enabled audits to be undertaken more conveniently with a view to providing quick feedback to radiology departments. This project aims are: (i) To use a radiology information system to harvest patient dose data. (ii) Depending upon system availability, to use a proprietary data mining system to extract and analyse data. (iii) To analyse data using database tools developed by the Radiation Protection Service and generate recommendations to radiology departments on patient dose optimisation strategy. The focus will be upon interventional radiographic procedures and general plain projection procedures. Results will be compared with those generated by previous audits It is expected that this project will lead to presentations at relevant scientific meetings. References: (1) The Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2000 and amendments 2006 and (2) IPEM report 88 Guidance on the Establishment and Use of Diagnostic Reference Levels for Medical X-ray Examinations
22 Project No.: 3221 Project Type: MED PHYS Concomitant dose from Cone Beam Ctin Image Guided Radiotherapy Dr Emiliano Spezi Recent publications highlighted the importance of assessing and accounting for concomitant dose for those patients undergoing frequent from Cone Beam CT (CBCT) scans as part of Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT) pathway. The dosimetric characterisation of the Elekta XVI linear accelerator and the calculation of patient specific concomitant dose from this device has been the subject of recent R&D activity within the department of Medical Physics in Velindre Cancer Centre. This research resulted in a number of publications in international scientific journals. The use of frequent or even daily CBCT is important in tumour sites where there is a significant amount of organ motion leading to random error on treatment. Cervical cancer is a key example. National guidance from the National Radiotherapy Implementation Group (NRIG) has recommended that Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) in this setting be performed with online guidance and daily volumetric imaging. With the use of daily CBCT scans the movement of the primary CTV can be assessed, and possibly compensated for by asking the patient to void their bladder or rectum. The aim of this project is to carry out a modelling study on patients who have had daily CBCT scans and estimate patient specific concomitant dose resulting from the daily use of this imaging modality. The student(s) will use Monte Carlo (MC) computer simulations for the calculation of the dose deposited in the patient s anatomy and tools largely based in the Matlab environment for medical image processing and data analysis. Conclusions from this study are likely for further improve the local IMRT delivery for this tumour site and potentially others. The project is run at Velindre Cancer Centre and is suitable for students with an interest in and aptitude for numerical computation. It is anticipated that this project will lead to presentations at relevant scientific meetings.
23 Project No.: 3222 Project Type: MED PHYS Can Terahertz (THz) spectroscopy be a useful tool for studying tissue damage and disease? Prof C Tucker This project involves using the state of the art terahertz (THz) instrumentation designed by the Astronomy Instrumentation Group (AIG), but applying it to problems in biophysics. Theoretical calculations have suggested that biomolecules should exhibit resonances at the relatively long THz wavelengths, however little work has been able to verify this experimentally. Therefore studies has been undertaken by the supervisor with previous 3rd year project students to measure the spectral characteristics of tissues in the broad THz region of the EM spectrum (wavelengths of ~ 50?m to 1mm) using the Fouriertransform spectrometers of the AIG. This has been very successful, with some results being published, which clearly show the absorption of THz radiation by the long-chain protein structures associated with biomolecules. There are many avenues of investigation in order to progress this work further, so we can discuss a few options. You may be interested in studying DNA or collagen structures or the possibility of applying a THz diagnostic to cancer studies? All options will require you to: 1.Research previous data, determine your own chosen analysis and prepare samples; 2.Learn and become competent in the use of FT spectroscopy using cryogenic detectors; 3.Measure the IR and THz characteristics of your samples using FT spectrometers; 4.Analyse and discuss your findings and place in a broader context. No. of Students: 1 to 3
24 Project No.: 3223 Project Type: MED PHYS Continuous wave Doppler ultrasound Dr Paul Williams The aim of the project is to build and test a simple continuous-wave Doppler Ultrasound device of the type used to measure blood flow and monitor foetal hearts. You will research appropriate designs for an RF transmitter and audio receiver circuit, which you will build on a breadboard, with the eventual aim of transferring the circuit to Vero board and housing it in a simple case. The transmitter would drive a piezoelectric crystal that emits a high frequency sound signal of which a portion will be reflected back from a moving target to the receiver, which will need amplification. The frequency of the audio signal received will be proportional to the velocity of the target. Once you have established that the circuit is working you will test the system using a Doppler phantom, verify the output, and modify the system to improve the output. No. of Students: 1
25 Project No.: 3224 Project Type: PHYS Can irradiation ever make things better? Dr P D Buckle and Dr D G Hayes A series of InSb Hall structures have been irradiated with strong ionising radiation. There is some evidence from the literature that an annealing process can take place which might result in better electron transport as a result. The student will measure Hall samples that have been irradiated and benchmark against similar ones that have not to look for electrical transport differences, learning one the most fundamental electrical assessment tools along the way. No. of Students: 1
26 Project No.: 3225 Project Type: PHYS Getting animated Dr P D Buckle Solid state physics can be conceptually difficult. Very often measurements are removed from everyday life experience, and experimental observation is complex or at worst tenuous, and yet solid state research underpins the whole of the information and technological revolution that we have been experiencing for the last 50 years since the invention of the transistor. This disconnect causes a problem. More and more scientists must be able to justify, at a conceptually simple level, complex ideas that explain advanced research topics. This is not only important for education, but for influencing difficult funding decisions. However, hope springs eternal. For semiconductor physicists band theory gives us the ideal opportunity to draw pictures and make simple analogies that bring alive physical concepts out of the haze of mathematical formality. However, illustrations, animations, and models must stand up to scientific rigour if they are to be truly successful and stand the test of time. This project will charge a student with developing a number of activities associated with science outreach, developing illustrations, animations, and with the assistance of School technicians possible physical models that will be used in lecture courses (internal and public), public open days, UCAS visit days, physical science and engineering engagement days, and the School web site. The student is expected to identify and learn appropriate software packages for this activity throughout the year, and develop and be able to explain the physics behind the demonstrations developed. No. of Students: 1 to 4
27 Project No.: 3226 Project Type: PHYS Magnetic field sensors - can we beat a traditional sensitivity barrier? Dr P D Buckle and Dr D G Hayes Magnetic field sensors are important. Did you know your average printer has about 80 just for paper jam detection. The car engine has an increasing number to monitor everything from brake wear to piston motion, and there is immense growth in magnetic field sensors for healthcare applications. Just detecting ferrous metals on people unwittingly entering MRI scanners whilst the field is active is saving countless lives across the globe. As always there are challenges. Greater sensitivity is needed, with better temperature stability, in more robust and convenient packages. Semiconductor Hall sensors have sold in their billions (conservative estimate), and yet if they could push just a little further in sensitivity they could creep into new markets where the only things that exist are unreproducible amorphous magneto-resistors (AMR), or complex and expensive flux gates. (These devices however can approach the ultimate sensitivity of a SQUID; still used by flying aircraft to sense submarines underwater, they are that sensitive). One of the most advanced semiconductor materials for Hall sensors is high mobility Indium Antimonide (InSb) quantum wells. They have the highest carrier mobility of all the III-V semiconductors and the lightest electron effective mass (good if you are trying to deflect carriers with a small amount of field, which is what you do in a Hall measurement). This project will use the Hall effect to characterise some relatively unique InSb quantum well devices. These can then be benchmarked against other devices reported in the literature, and also compared to commercial offerings from companies such as Asahi corp, or AHS Ltd. The aim at the end of the project will be to hypothesise, through understanding of the physics, how to make them better, from the material design to the device construction.
28 Project No.: 3227 Project Type: PHYS Multi Port Switching Dr P D Buckle All too often, students are fried by the time it takes to pre-qualify devices before measurement (at research level, device yield is low!). This project will look to develop instrumentation to enable automated screening of both Hall and Diode samples. The student will be expected to be proficient with Python and enthusiastic to interact with the electronics workshop. The second semester will be all about putting this system to the test on some real research samples No. of Students: 1