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Particle Physics with the ATLAS Detector at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider


This project provides the opportunity to join the global effort to search for physics beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics using data from the ATLAS Experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider


Professor Kevin Varvell.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN has now been collecting data since the start of 2010, with an enormous number of proton-proton collisions having been collected to date at collision energies of 7 TeV, 8 TeV and 13 TeV. Whilst only a select fraction of these collisions are recorded for further study, the resulting data set is still huge. The search for the Higgs boson was successful, with its discovery announced in 2012. The focus has now become precision studies of the properties of the Higgs, precision studies of the Standard Model of Particle Physics (SM) at unprecedented energies, and searches for `”physics Beyond the Standard Model'' (BSM). The School of Physics is involved in several aspects of the ATLAS programme, notably: 

  • Studying the decays of neutral Higgs bosons to pairs of photons, to better understand the properties of the Higgs. The new boson observed at the LHC, with a mass of around 125 GeV, could simply be the long-sought-after Standard Model Higgs boson or something more exotic. A lot of effort is now going into prising out its properties.
  • Performing global, model independent fits to dilepton spectra from ATLAS, with a view to simultaneously extracting the cross-sections for Standard Model processes such as top pair production, W boson pair production, Z boson production and single top quark production in association with a W boson. As well as providing important tests of the Monte Carlo simulations and calculations o rates of Standard Model processes at the highest energies accessible experimentally, deviations from expectation could signal hints of new physics. 
  • Understanding the production of top-antitop pairs at ATLAS, which form a good test of the Standard Model as well as an important background to new physics processes. While in previous colliders the production of top-antitop pairs was a rare occurrence, this is not the case at the LHC. Top physics is interesting in its own right since, due to it being extremely heavy, the top quark does not form mesons before decaying, which allows the study of instrinsic quark properties such as the spin using the final state particles. 
  • Preparing for future upgrades of the ATLAS detector, and in particular the inner tracking part of the detector and its readout, to allow it to operate at the higher beam intensity environment which will be present when the LHC undergoes an upgrade to the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) in a few years time.
Specific projects could be tailored to suit the particular interests of students.

Additional information

Consider the following for example: 

  • Potential research areas for PhDs topics 
  • Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors 
  • Is the opportunity also available for Honours students? 
  • Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc. 
  • Scholarships/funding available 
  • Eligibility criteria (e.g., Hons 1) or previous experience or skills required
Some aspects of the above program can also be tailored towards shorter projects to be undertaken at Honours level.
HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1603

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