Departmental Summer Research Assistantship (DSRA) Positions

Posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

The following vacancies are departmental summer research assistantship (DSRA) positions. 
Hourly rate is the same as NSERC ($16.00/hour).   

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS:    February 28, 2020 11:59 p.m.
Please submit your letter of interest, resume and transcript to Reggi Vallillee
Reggi Vallillee – or in person MacN Room 210, should you have any questions.


Infrared microscopy studies of accelerated aging of cross-linked polyethylene pipe

Supervisor: Dr. John Dutcher, Department of Physics

Start Date:  May 4, 2020

Brief outline of Proposed Research Project 

The student will be directly involved in infrared (IR) microscopy measurements that will be used to characterize the effect of accelerated aging (elevated temperature, UV/ozone exposure, exposure to hot, chlorinated water) on cross-linked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe. IR microscopy allows the monitoring of molecular vibrations associated with different chemical groups present in the pipes. Principal component analysis (PCA) and machine learning concepts, such as support vector machines and cluster analysis, will be applied to classify the different modes of degradation. 

This work will be done in collaboration with PexCor, a Calgary-based company that manufactures crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe for use in household and industrial plumbing and heating applications. The student will interact directly with PexCor scientists and technologists.

Dutcher Lab; PexCor

Job Description 

Tasks/responsibilities: The student will prepare samples by slicing along the radial and axial directions of the extruded pipe to produce thin (50-250 micrometer thick) slices for use in the IR microscopy experiments. The student will perform IR microscopy on samples that have been subjected to accelerated aging (elevated temperature, UV/ozone exposure, exposure to hot, chlorinated water). The student will analyze the IR spectra and apply previously developed PCA and machine learning concepts to identify the most important features in the spectra for tracking of pipe degradation. 

Preferred qualifications: Second- or third-year student in physics, chemistry or nanoscience.


Gamma-ray spectroscopy following beta-decay; Analysis of data from GRIFFIN

Supervisor: Dr. Paul Garrett, Department of Physics

Proposed Start Date:   May 4, 2020

Outline of Proposed Research Project 

Nuclear beta-decay may populate excited states in the daughter nucleus, which can subsequently decay by gamma-ray emission.  In practice, we often observe a cascade of gamma-rays, allowing a level scheme of the nucleus to be established, and furthermore, we often see multiple possible gamma-rays emitted from a single excited state.  The knowledge of the levels and their decays provide sensitive tests of nuclear models and theories.  This project will focus on the analysis of data from the GRIFFIN gamma-ray spectrometer, obtained following beta-decay id radioactive beams from the TRIUMF-ISAC facility.

Job description (task/responsibilities, relevant scheduling details, and required and/or preferred qualifications):

The student will use the ROOT package of data analysis and locally developed sorting routines to produce the histograms and matrices that will be analysed.  Following this, they will use ROOT or other software to perform the analysis and develop the excitation level schemes of nuclei, measure decay half lives, deduce the probability of gamma-ray emission, etc. The candidate will be asked to join experiments at the TRIUMF-ISAC facility in Vancouver, and potentially other facilities, that our group are leading. 

The student should have a basic understanding of statistics, and knowledge of programming languages, for example C or C++, Python, etc., would be an asset. Previous gamma ray spectroscopy experience would be an asset.


Reformatting lecture notes into accessible formats

Supervisor: Dr. Eric Poisson, Department of Physics

Proposed Start Date: May 4, 2020 

Brief Outline of Proposed Research Project

The goal is to reformat Professor Poisson’s suite of lecture notes for various courses from PDF to formats that are accessible and can therefore be posted under the University website.

Job description (task/responsibilities, relevant scheduling details, and required and/or preferred qualifications)

As described in the outline. The student is required to have a good attention to detail. 


Microscopic simulations of strongly interacting quantum systems

Proposed Start Date: May 4, 2020

Supervisor: Dr. Alexandros Gezerlis, Department of Physics

Brief Outline of Proposed Research Project 

This project will study strongly interacting matter. Specifically, it will address scattering in few-nucleon systems or the phenomenon of superfluidity in systems such as neutron stars and cold atoms. Neutron stars are compact astrophysical objects which exhibit exotic properties. The approach used will likely be to pose an intuitive theory (density-functional theory, BCS theory, or quantum Monte Carlo), followed by an implementation stage. In consultation with the supervisor, the ramifications of the theory and its results will be mapped out. By focusing on a problem of manageable size, we intend to do realistic computations that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. The student will therefore get a crash course on research in modern theoretical physics.

Job description (task/responsibilities, relevant scheduling details, and required and/or preferred qualifications)

The student will carry out a mixture of pen-and-paper (similar to what students encounter in coursework) & computational work (which is more novel). Previous exposure to programming would be beneficial but is not required. In addition to research, students will be attending weekly group meetings and will learn how to present their progress to their peers.


Bot Design

Supervisor: Dr. Mike Massa

Brief Outline of Proposed Research Project

Active Matter is composed of a collection of objects, each of which independently consumes stored or ambient energy and converts that energy into motion – typically propulsion.  This defining characteristic of active matter gives rise to unique mechanical properties and dynamical behaviour.  There are many examples of active matter systems in biology (flocks of birds, bacterial biofilms) in which signalling between individuals plays an important role – this could be through visual cues or chemical signalling, for example.

These complex biological systems can be modelled using a collection of artificial ‘bots’.  The bots convert vibrational energy from an internal motor into locomotion along a surface; interactions between bots is currently limited to steric interactions (collisions).  The focus of this project will be to design additional bot-bot and bot-environment interactions (for example, using IR sensors).  Such interactions could be used to modulate the behaviour of individuals, which in turn will affect the collective behaviour of the system.

Job description (task/responsibilities, relevant scheduling details, and required and/or preferred qualifications)

Experience with programming and circuitry is necessary, with preferred experience using python/Matlab/C, as well as experience with robotics, Arduino or similar.  The student will research components to be integrated into the existing bot design.  The project will also involve design for 3D printing, soldering, and will also include familiarization and use of existing lab setup (imaging hardware and tracking software).  There will be some opportunity for the student to dictate the direction of the project.

The student will:  Develop their design skills, programming skills, gain hands-on experience in self-directed experimental design; learn about non-equilibrium phase transitions, cooperative behaviour – areas in physics research which they are not generally exposed to in an undergraduate program.


The successful candidate will have

  • Experience with circuit design and/or robotics
  • strong computer programming skills
  • good written and verbal communication skills in English
  • Successful completion of PHYS*2180 or similar lab-based course

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