ATLAS PhD Students

CLIC PhD study


Our postgraduate training is provided within the framework of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) Graduate School, and provides opportunities to attend various summer schools and physics workshops, as well as to spend time at overseas laboratories such as CERN. The Graduate School provides a structure for progress reports and performance and development review, as well as for student feedback on the quality of supervision. Each student is appointed a first and a second supervisor, so you will be well supported.

‌We put great emphasis on expertise in the field and on generic skills training. Via SUPA, we offer an exceptionally strong and broad training programme in particle physics and related technical skills (such as statistical analysis, programming, and Linux operation). Students choose, with input from their supervisors, which courses to attend depending on their interests in theoretical or experimental physics.

Transferable skills are fostered through the Department and Faculty Graduate Schools. Amongst other activities all Faculty research students attend a residential course on Great Cumbrae Island for teamwork skills. All PPE and PPT students attend the appropriate STFC summer school in Particle Physics at the end of year one, are encouraged to attend STFC entrepreneurship training, and other summer schools and workshops throughout their PhD.

Find out more about our current research projects below.  Other projects may arise on the border of theory and experiment, for example involving beyond-Standard-Model (BSM) interpretations of our ATLAS and LHCb areas of expertise.


Beam View of UK Endcap

Our ATLAS positions for Sept/Oct 2024 have now been filled.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is probing the structure of matter at the highest energies achieved in a collider.  By making precision measurements in Higgs, top-quark, and electroweak physics we can probe the structure of the Standard Model and looking for deviations that could indicate new physics. 

Following the discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the LHC in 2012, many measurements remain to be made to verify whether it is a Standard-Model Higgs boson, or something more exotic.  In the ATLAS collaboration, the Glasgow group's efforts are in the channels where a Higgs boson is produced in association with a W or Z boson or in association with a pair of top quarks, and then decays to b-quarks.  The LHC is a top-quark factory, and the ATLAS datasets allow unprecedented measurements of this, the heaviest of the known elementary particles.

We also study the behaviour of the strong nuclear force, Quantum Chromodynamics, which is a key factor in all LHC analyses and presents many theoretical difficulties that can only be resolved by confronting predictions with increasingly challenging experimental measurements. Our QCD analysis efforts are centred on understanding how heavy c and b quarks are produced, and the structure of QCD particle jets: these aspects of QCD are central to our programme of Higgs and top-quark measurements.

The successful candidate will undertake exciting research within a strong Glasgow ATLAS group.  They will be expected to travel for short trips to CERN, Geneva and will have the opportunity to spend an extended period at CERN.

Projects for 2024 are listed below:

ATLAS Project 1: QCD dynamics at high energy

Supervisor: Prof Andy Buckley

Our partial understanding of how the strong interaction behaves in practice is a key limitation on much of the current and future collider programme, and will become increasingly dominant in the high-statistics limit of LHC Run 3 and the High-Luminosity LHC.  Heavy quarks are one of the least well-understood quantities, as their mass modifies both how they are produced and how they radiate (forming heavy-quark jets): current models disagree on how best to do this, creating large differences in their predictions at high energies and in the special configurations used by Higgs-boson and new-physics studies.  This project will centre on novel measurements of heavy-quark jets and on improved modelling, increasing our knowledge of quantum chromodynamics and addressing a major source of uncertainty in energy-frontier studies.

ATLAS Project 2: Quantum Entanglement

Supervisor: Dr Jay Howarth

The research team led by Dr Howarth recently observed Quantum Entanglement in quarks for the first time, at the highest ever energies, using the ATLAS experiment. This project will focus on this new and exciting field of Quantum Information research at hadron colliders using top quark decays in a qubit state and Higgs boson decays in a qutrit state. The project will focus on reconstructing final states containing missing momentum due to the presence of neutrinos using machine learning and using this reconstruction to perform the first tests of Bell Inequalities at a hadron collider. It is ideally suited to students with an interest in the application of state-of-the-art artificial intelligence algorithms to particle physics problems and/or those with an interest in Quantum Information research.


We may also be able to offer a joint studentship with CERN:

ATLAS Project 3: Artificial intelligence for the upgraded ATLAS muon trigger

Supervisor: Prof Mark Owen

The high luminosity upgrade of the LHC (HL-LHC) will provide ATLAS with collision rates almost ten times higher than the current LHC. To cope with these collision rates, the ATLAS detector will be significantly upgraded. A key component of the upgrade is the trigger system, which is responsible for selecting which of the collision events are saved to disk for use in physics analyses. CERN has recently started a new project which will investigate how artificial intelligence and modern computing techniques can be used to augment the current design for the upgraded trigger system. This goal of the PhD project is to develop novel algorithms for muon reconstruction, potentially implementing them on GPU and / or FPGA accelerators and to use those algorithms to enhance the physics that can be done at the HL-LHC. 



Our LHCb position for Sept/Oct 2024 has now been filled.

Potential projects for 2024 are listed below:

LHCb Project 1: Exotic hadrons

Supervisor: Dr Mark Whitehead

We are currently in a golden age for spectroscopy measurements, led by the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment at CERN. The LHCb experiment has discovered 64 hadronic particles, with 23 so-called exotic candidates. These exotic hadrons are made from combinations of 4, 5, or perhaps even 6 quarks. Studying excited hadrons provides a test for our understanding of the strong interaction, with such particles being predicted by techniques such as lattice QCD.  The perfect laboratory to explore these phenomena are decays of beauty hadrons (containing a b-quark) to final states including charm hadrons (containing a c-quark). New data samples from LHC Run 3 will provide more data and opportunities than ever before.

Accurate simulations of particle physics processes are crucial to model the production of particles at the LHC, and describe the detectors and the interactions between the particles and the material.  Alongside the data analysis part of this project, development work on the simulations will support physics analyses and the design and optimisation of new detectors for LHCb.

LHCb Project 2: New physics searches using semileptonic b-hadron decays and future tracking system performance

Supervisor: Dr Lucia Grillo

The LHCb experiment is designed to search for effects of physics beyond the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics through precision measurements using beauty- and charm-hadron decays.  Recent experimental results have hinted to the breakdown of Lepton Universality: the  principle according to which the weak force coupling strength is the same to the electron as to its heavier partners, the muon and tau. New measurements of decays of beauty hadrons to lighter hadrons a charged lepton and a neutrino (also known as semileptonic decays) are essential to establish the effect and investigate the nature of potential New Physics processes. You will measure differences in angular asymmetries for different lepton flavours in data collected by LHCb, providing new, stringent constraints to the experimental picture. To understand the data sample composition, you will need to explore decays of b-hadrons to excited charm states not yet observed or very poorly measured.  Your work will profit from effective synergy with the particle physics theory group in Glasgow.

Excellent track and vertex reconstruction capabilities are at the heart of the LHCb physics programme: you will study possible strategies to reconstruct the trajectories of charged particles through the detector in high instantaneous luminosity conditions, and you will use the evaluated performance to inform the design of the tracking system for LHCb future upgrades.


PhD students in this area work within the Glasgow LHCb group of seven research staff and four PhD students.  Activities include the analysis of data, and running and operating the experiment.  Students are expected to travel to CERN in Geneva regularly, and to spend a period of around one year based at CERN.



We do not expect to offer an STFC-funded studentship in this area for 2024; however, we are glad to consider candidates for scholarship funding.

Following longstanding involvement in neutrino physics, the Glasgow group is currently working in the T2K long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and for the upgrade of the Super-Kamiokande experiment, called Hyper-Kamiokande (Hyper-K).  

At T2K, a predominantly muon-neutrino beam, generated at the J-PARC accelerator facility in Tokai, changes flavour and appears as electron-neutrinos at the Super-Kamiokande water Cherenkov detector in the Kamioka mine, at a distance of 300 km. This allows the study of neutrino interactions in the near detector facility at T2K and use of these data to contribute to the analysis of neutrino and antineutrino oscillations. The ultimate goal of the experiment is to determine differences between the rate of appearance of electron-neutrinos and electron-antineutrinos as a demonstration of CP violation with neutrinos.


Detector Development - OPEN PROJECT

We are offering a PhD project in detector development starting 2024-25

The Glasgow Experimental particle physics group has a long-standing expertise in the development and deployment of advanced detector systems for particle physics and for applications outside of particle physics.

The group has a focus on the development of silicon-based detectors and data transfer off module. Presently we are focused on the development of the upgraded ATLAS and LHCb silicon vertex and tracking sub-detectors. For the ATLAS project we have developed the strip detector module and the pixel detector module for the inner tracking system, the ITk. For LHCb, we developed the opto-electrical data transfer links for the present vertex upgrade and are now working on fast timing pixel detectors for the VELO (vertex detector) and on monolithic CMOS sensors for the Mighty Tracker.

For application outside of the particle physics we are developing small pitch pixel sensors with internal gain to be coupled to the TimePix family of pixel chips. Working with many industrial partners we are developing devices and systems for X-ray and electron detection for a range of applications, including for synchrotrons and electron microscopy.

We have a wide range of equipment to support technology research and development, including our own flip-chip bonder for pixel muddle assembly, wire-bonders, probe stations, and a comprehensive range of device characterisation and metrology equipment.

PhD opportunities exist for the development of sensors including monolithic CMOS and fast timing sensors, module assembly techniques, DAQ, data-transfer techniques for the next generation of particle physics experiments and for applications outwith particle physics. Excellent opportunities exist for training, working overseas and placements at industrial partners.

Projects for 2024 are listed below:

Detector Development Project 1: Advanced LGADs with improved radiation hardness and ultra-transparent entrance windows

Supervisor:  Dr Richard Bates

PhD duration: 36 months, followed by an additional year of employment at Micron Semiconductor Ltd in West Sussex.

The STFC-funded PhD Studentship will develop the next generation of silicon pixel detectors for particle physics and other application. The research will be performed in close collaboration with Micron Semiconductor Ltd, a UK company that leads the development of silicon sensors for particle physics. The project will use the start-of-the-art MediPix/TimePix pixel chips developed at CERN to characterise the sensors developed.

The research has two objectives
1: develop picosecond timing pixel detectors with enhanced radiation resistance for the upgrade of the LHCb and ATLAS experiments
2: develop a transparent X-ray entrance window on the sensor for the use of the sensor for soft X-ray detection at synchrotrons

The research will be based in the world-leading Glasgow Laboratory for Advanced Detector Development (GLADD), where the device design and characterisation will take place. The student will attend placements at Micron Semiconductor where they will learn device fabrication skills. Finally, the devices will be characterised in beam tests at CERN, Geneva, and the Diamond Light Source, Oxford.


We do not expect to offer an STFC-funded studentship in this area starting in Sept/Oct 2024, but would be glad to consider candidates for scholarship funding.

The Glasgow group has been a central part of the analysis of the pre-2018 data, working on both the normalisation channel and the upstream backgrounds in the signal channel.  The LHC "Long Shutdown 3" has provided a window of opportunity to develop more modern analysis techniques using Machine Learning to improve upon previous cut-based analysis for the data taken from 2021 onwards.