URA Summer Positions

Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

The following URA positions must be applied for via Experience Guelph - Deadline Friday, February 14, 2020

Study of Active Matter using a collection of autonomous bots

Proposed Start Date: May 4, 2020 
Supervisor: Dr. Michael 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.  One of the many interesting properties of active objects is their tendency to associate together and move collectively.  There are many example of active matter systems in biology, including flocks of birds, bacterial biofilms and motor-proteins within cells.

To gain insight into these complex biological systems, this project will investigate collective behaviour in a group of artificial ‘bots’.  The bots convert vibrational energy from an internal motor into locomotion along a surface.  While an isolated individual may exhibit random motion, a collection of bots on a confined surface can exhibit coordinated motion.  This project will quantify this motion using object tracking image analysis.  

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

Programming experience is necessary, preferably with software such as Matlab, python or similar.  The project may also include some bot hardware design modification, which may involve 3D printing and circuit design (wiring and soldering).  There will be some opportunity for the student to dictate the direction of the study, based on their results and interests.

The student will:  Develop their programming skills writing code for image analysis; 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

  • Completed a computer programming-based physics course, such as NANO*3600, (consideration will be given for a strong candidate who has completed an introductory programming course)
  • Strong written and verbal skills in English
  • Successful completion of PHYS*2180 or similar lab-based course

Educational Development: Physics of Music

Proposed Start Date: May 4, 2020
Supervisor: Prof. Elisabeth Nicol

Brief Outline of Proposed Research Project 

The Department of Physics is offering a course called the Physics of Music as a science elective for nonscience students. As this course has not been offered for the last ten years, there is much that needs be updated and redeveloped to improve the pedagogical delivery of the course.

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

The successful applicant will be involved in the educational development of the Physics of Music course which is a course for nonscience students. Various activities are possible such as the assessment and preparation of both old and new demonstrations for the course and the redevelopment of powerpoint slides used for lectures, including searching out animations and pictures for introducing various physical concepts. Having a background in basic physics including waves and oscillations is required and so it is expected that the student will have taken at minimum the first year undergraduate physics courses and have experience with powerpoint or a willingness to learn. Preferred qualifications are more advanced physics courses on waves and oscillations, including coupled oscillators and normal modes, communication skills as might be gained through the science communication course offered in third year physics, and a background in music.

The successful applicant must be strongly self-motivated and capable of independent, high quality work.


Course Development Support in First-Year Physics

Proposed Start Date: May 4, 2020 
Supervisors: Joanne O’Meara and Mike Massa

Brief Outline of Proposed Research Project 

The successful applicant will assist in the ongoing updates to our first-year courses (PHYS*1130, PHYS*1010, PHYS*1300, PHYS*1020DE, IPS*1500, IPS*1510) through the development and testing of new experiments, online pretests, quiz banks, and online resources. 

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

  • Researching possible experiments that complement the curricular content of PHYS*1130 and PHYS*1010
  • Developing laboratory procedures that are relevant and at the appropriate level for PHYS*1130 and PHYS*1010
  • Exploring the availability of online resources for use in PHYS*1020DE and developing instructions/guides for those enrolled in the course to make use of these to enhance learning outcomes in the Open Ed environment
  • Assisting the supervisor with updating the materials provided within the online course (PHYS*1020DE)
  • Developing appropriate pretest questions for the revised PHYS*1130
  • Updating the existing quiz banks with feedback from the graduate-student teaching assistants in PHYS*1300/1130/1070/1080
  • Developing new questions to expand existing quiz banks in these courses

Required Qualifications – successful completion of core second-year physics courses (PHYS*2180, PHYS*2240, PHYS*2310, and PHYS*2340 or equivalent); excellent written communication skills. Experience with html would be beneficial but not required.


Organization and Analysis of Python Coding Project data for Undergraduate Physics Majors

Supervisors: Martin Williams, Mike Massa

Outline of Proposed Research Project

Assisting in organizing, entering, and analysing surveys and other data sources relating to an ongoing project measuring undergraduate Physics students’ comfort with and adaptation to Python code as a practical laboratory tool. Similar tasks for other ongoing projects possible as well.

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

Work with graduate student to organize, enter, and statistically analyse data that comes from a number of projects in Physics Education, primarily the use of Python code in first- and second-year courses.

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