Current projects

See the projects you can apply to join as part of the Laby Research Scholars Program this year.

Accelerator physics

Experimental commissioning in the X-LAB (X-band Laboratory for Accelerators and Beams): a first in the Southern Hemisphere

Supervisor: Suzie Sheehy and Matteo Volpi
Keyword: Accelerator physics, Particle therapy

In this project the student will work closely with Dr. Matteo Volpi in the X-LAB: the first X-band accelerator test facility in the southern hemisphere. The term “X-band” refers to the ultra-high-frequency at which the device operates (12 GHz): this high frequency means the accelerators are physically much smaller and lighter than existing technology. This technology has many societal applications including high-energy physics and beyond, for example disruptive and paradigm-shifting cancer treatment concepts. However, this technology is extremely challenging to realise: it involves extreme electromagnetic fields, beyond-state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and detailed accelerator physics simulations. Depending on commissioning stage, the student will perform hands-on measurements in the X-LAB including measuring X-band components using a ‘bead-pull’ technique, comparing this to detailed electromagnetic simulations, and working toward understanding electrical breakdowns in pulse compressor and accelerating systems.


The SpIRIT nanosatellite - Australia's first space telescope

Supervisor: Michele Trenti
Keyword: Astrophysics

The SpIRIT (Space Industry – Responsive – Intelligent – Thermal) nanosatellite mission is the first project funded for launch in orbit by the Australian Space Agency, and the shoe-box sized satellite will carry a sophisticated gamma and x-ray instrument for high energy astrophysics.

SpIRIT is expected to be launched in late 2023, and it will contribute to detection of Gamma Ray Bursts and electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational-wave mergers, operating in conjunction with a European constellation of satellites (the HERMES scientific and technological pathfinders).  This internship will give the opportunity to join the SpIRIT mission team, led out of the School of Physics at UoM, and to gain direct experience on the integration, assembly, and testing phase of a space mission.

Specific projects possible for interns range from modeling and optimisation of science operations of the satellite to on-board software development and hands-on hardware verification and testing experience in the Melbourne Space Laboratory, where the fully integrated satellite will undergo the final verification and testing campaign during the upcoming winter.


Quantitative imaging of three-dimensional genome architecture in a living cell

Supervisor: Elizabeth Hinde
Keywords: Biophysics

Live cell nucleus architecture has emerged as a key player in DNA target search and maintenance of genome integrity. In recent work we have developed a series of fluorescence microscopy methods to track the movement of molecules around the complex DNA networks within the nuclei of live cells. Based on fluorescence lifetime and fluctuation spectroscopy, this technology has the spatial and temporal resolution to map the impact genome organisation has on nuclear traffic .

From using these methods, we have discovered that DNA networks rearrange to genome structures that facilitate DNA repair and transcription factor recruitment to target DNA sites. The aim of this biophysical project is to investigate how genome organisation serves as 'road map' for DNA-binding proteins to navigate the nucleus and maintain genome function.


The search for Radiative Auger decay, tests of QED and Axions, and how they defend Australia's search for Rare Earth metals

Supervisor: Chris Chantler
Keywords: X-ray Optics, Synchrotron Science

Topics that are not covered on the undergraduate syllabus but are fully accessible in Masters (and Ph D) offer great opportunities in experimental and theoretical physics. Undergraduates get taught the photoelectric effect (absorption to the continuum) and time-independent quantum mechanics, but we know that the world requires time-dependent quantum mechanics (for any event in space-time).

A step beyond this, maybe with Wikipedia or a good third year textbook, and you can explain the origin of Auger decay and QED – though always better as a proper course in Masters [yes we have three – QM, QFT and QAO]. Perhaps surprising is that there is no explicit theory for the radiative Auger effect, and even more surprising that we can work on it theoretically and experimentally in an internship and in Masters (and of course in a Ph D).

To perform a direct test of QED is at least a Ph D, but to learn new insights on the current experimental unexplained anomalies can be an internship or a MSc – even to the point of productive new contributions to the literature (with two past interns making enough progress to become co-authors on a research paper).

The Mysterious Axions are one of the most ephemeral hypotheses currently on the table – but we can investigate them experimentally or perhaps more honestly analytically in an internship or MSc. Perhaps even more surprising is how this new understanding can be used to strengthen Australian Industry and the development of Australian companies searching for Rare Earth metals.

Particle Physics

Dark sector searches with the Belle II experiment

Supervisor: Philip Urquijo
Keywords: Particle Physics

The student will work on aspects of a search for dark sector particles with data from the Belle II experiment at the SuperKEKB e+e- collider. The Melbourne Belle II team is conducting searches for a variety of predicted dark sector phenomena such as dark photons, axion like particles and dark baryons.