ICG offers a variety of research experience placements aimed at providing experience of working as an academic scientist.
- Undergraduate Summer Research Placements
- Year 12 4-6 week summer “Nuffield Research Scheme”
- Year 10 Work Experience Week (not currently running)
Undergraduate Research Experience
Undergraduate Projects Available in Summer 2021 will be posted when available.
For details on how to apply please continue reading.
For details of previous Undergraduate Research Placements
SEPNet Placements at ICG
Undergraduate student at SEPNet (South East Physics Network) Universities can apply for the SEPNet placement scheme to spend eight weeks working on a research project at ICG. The scheme is only for physics undergraduates on Year 2 BSc/MSci/MPhys programmes and Year 3 MPhys/MSci programmes at SEPnet partner universities (Hertfordshire, Kent, Open, Portsmouth, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Surrey and Sussex). Eligible students will be emailed instructions about how to apply.
Ogden Trust Placements at ICG
Every summer, the Ogden Trust offers 6-8 week paid internships. These are open to Ogden alumni (i.e. gifted physicists (mainly) currently or previously on means-tested scholarships). They are advertised to Ogden undergraduates in all years and to Ogden students in their final year at school. ICG is pleased to support this scheme and continue at least one Ogden placement each summer. Students must apply via the Ogden Trust.
University Funded Research Placements
We are sometimes able to support University of Portsmouth funded projects. To apply for these (if you are not eligible for either SEPNet or Ogden) please send an application to Dr. Becky Canning (becky.canning ‘at’ port.ac.uk) by the midnight Monday 19th April 2021. This should comprise a CV (including details of your University units and specific details on marks in different units) along with a cover letter indicating why you are interested in a placement in Portsmouth, and what type of project you would be most interested in.
Projects currently available (projects will keep being updated until Friday 16th April):
- The Effective Field Theory of Dark EnergyEffective field theories (EFTs) are at the heart of modern physics, helping us to describe physical phenomena on a variety of energy scales. A particularly powerful feature of EFTs is that they make the regime of validity of these descriptions manifest. This is especially important in the context of gravitational physics, where we generically encounter non-renormalisable interactions. As a consequence gravitational theories come with a cutoff that effectively marks the largest energy scale where such theories can reliably be applied; for General Relativity this is the Planck scale. One of the current most pressing issues in gravitational physics is to better understand the nature of dark energy, i.e. the agent responsible for the currently observed accelerated expansion of the Universe on very large scales. In this context, applying EFT techniques has proved particularly fruitful, recently leading to a systematic, robust and comparatively model-independent understanding of how precisely dark energy may manifest itself in a cosmological setting and how we can probe it further.The goal of this summer project is to obtain a clear understanding of how EFTs of dark energy are constructed [1,2] and how they can be used to probe and constrain the nature of dark energy. This will initially involve understanding how dark energy degrees of freedom can be thought of as Goldstone bosons of spontaneously broken time translations (also see ) and how to construct a general ansatz for linear dark energy interactions in a 3+1 decomposition of space-time [1,2]. We will also investigate what the regimes of validity of the resulting EFTs are and how these are related to dark energy phenomenology on cosmological scales. Of particular interest will be what this implies regarding which types of observations can be used to self-consistently test an EFT of dark energy. An ambitious student might in addition explore one of the following options: I) What qualitative constraints current observations (solar system tests, binary pulsars, large scale structure, CMB) allow us to place on the interactions present in EFTs of dark energy. II) How the above approach can be extended beyond linear interactions . III) What this implies for testing dark energy with current and near-future gravitational wave observations [5,6].
- Identifying super-massive black holes (SMBHs) with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI)Active Galactic Nuclei are feeding supermassive black holes (SMBHs). They emit radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum but are best observed in the X-ray wavelengths where they are least obscured by dust or swamped by the starlight in their host galaxy. Such observations are a key tool for understanding if and how SMBH’s and galaxies co/evolve. However, such data are not always available. How do we gain the most complete understanding from the datasets we will have over the next decade? This project will explore what sensitivity the next generation optical spectroscopic survey, DESI, will have to detect active SMBHs across the waveband. Can we use optical spectroscopic data to predict which objects are X-ray bright AGN?
- Studying Dark Energy cosmological models with dynamical system techniques
The standard model of cosmology is the so called flat ΛCDM, the solution of Einstein equations for which the curvature of space is negligible, so that space is “flat”, i.e. not curved, the matter component is dominated by the Cold Dark Matter (CDM), responsible for the formation of cosmic structures, and the cosmological constant Λ , the simplest form of Dark Energy (DE), drives the observed accelerated expansion of the universe. This models fits current observational data well, but theoretical cosmologists have many reasons to investigate other possibilities. While for the flat ΛCDM an analytic solution of Einstein equations can be found, in general other models are more complicated and a solution can only be found numerically. Studying solutions one by one is not very efficient; fortunately, Einstein equations for homogeneous isotropic cosmological models reduce to a system of nonlinear ordinary differential equations (ODEs), and there are techniques, mathematically known as dynamical system theory, that can be applied to study general properties of families of solutions of ODEs.
Aim of this project is to apply dynamical system techniques to the equations of cosmology when models of Dark Energy other than a simple cosmological constant Λ are considered.
In practice, goal of the project is for the student to reproduce part of the analysis in one or two published papers, developing an understanding of theoretical methods and basic cosmology in the process. Technically, the student will analyse a system of two coupled first-order nonlinear ordinary differential equations describing, respectively, the evolution of the energy density ρ and the evolution of the expansion rate of the universe H, assuming different equations of state for the matter component. In the first part of the project the student will find the stationary points of the system, the Jacobian matrix at these fixed points and their eigenvalues. In the second part this information will be used to produce phase plots of the system. The first part can be done with pen and paper or using Mathematica or Maple software. The second paper can be done with these software or with Python.
References and background reading:
K. N. Ananda and M. Bruni, Cosmological dynamics and dark energy with a nonlinear equation of state: A quadratic model, Physical Review D, 74, p.23523 (2006). arXiv:astro-ph/0512224
E. J. Copeland, A. R. Liddle, and D. Wands, PRD57, 4686 (1998)
P.J. D.K. Arrowsmith and C.M. Place, Dynamical systems: differential equations, maps and chaotic behaviour, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1992). (Available in the library).
J.E. Peebles, Seeing Cosmology Grow, Annu. Rev. Astro. Astrophys. 2012.50 Catherine Heymans, The Dark Universe, e-book freely available from IOP website
Public Engagement Placements
Recently we have also supported a variety of public engagement placements. In 2017, the following public engagement placements ran. Please click here for further details about the two projects:
- Investigating the impact of the Portsmouth StargazingLIVE events at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (Funded by an STFC Small Award). Dr. Karen Masters and Dr. Jen Gupta
- The Tactile Universe Outreach Internship. (Funded by The Ogden Trust). Dr. Jen Gupta, Dr. Nic Bonne and Dr. Coleman Krawczyk
For more information on potential future public engagement placements please contact Dr. Jen Gupta (jennifer.gupta ‘at’ port.ac.uk).
Nuffield Research Placements
Nuffield Research Placements is a UK-wide scheme giving students in the first year of post-16 studies a chance to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians for 4 – 6 weeks over the summer holidays. ICG has supported this scheme for the last several years, typically taking 1-2 students each summer.
Students eligible for this scheme are:
- In their first year of post-16 studies (Year 12 or equivalent).
- Studying one or more A-levels (or equivalent) in maths, science, engineering or a technology-related subjects.
- Studying at a UK school or college and resident in the UK.
(Anyone studying for a degree, or similar higher-level qualification, at a university or college is not eligible to apply)
- Available for a minimum of four consecutive weeks during the school summer holiday period.
In addition the scheme is targeted at students who:
- Have 5 GCSEs at grade B or above, including Maths, English and a science.
- Have an interest in studying science, technology, engineering or maths at university.
- Want to find out more about careers in STEM.
To ensure no-one is excluded because of financial need, travel costs are provided for all students, and means tested burseries are also available.
Students from all schools and colleges in the UK are eligible to apply to the scheme. However,the Nuffield Foundation (and ICG) are particularly keen to encourage students with no family history of Higher Education, or who have not had the opportunity to participate in an enrichment activity of this nature before, to apply. Only a small number of places on the scheme are awarded to independent students each year.
The application deadline for Sussex & Hampshire this year is 24th March 2017. Please indicate your interest in ICG based projects when you apply.
News items about previous Nuffield Research Placement Students:
Examples of previous research projects:
- Summer 2015: Exploring the morphologies of galaxies in single-band SDSS images
- Summer 2014: An investigation in how the prominence of spiral arms correlates (or not) with measures of ongoing star formation in spiral galaxies.
Year 10 Work Experience Week
In June we sometimes run a special “work experience week” inviting local young people from Y10 to spend a week at the ICG. This is a chance to experience the environment of a professional astronomer or cosmologist. You will work on a small research project with a research supervisor (one of the ICG Academic Staff or Postdoctoral Researchers), as well as participate in a range of specially designed activities (e.g. tailored lecturers, and a campus tour). You will also get chance to meet other young people interested in exploring astronomy/cosmology as a career.
Unfortunately we are unable to run this in 2017. We hope it will be back in 2018.
We especially encourage applications from students who aren’t sure that a career in science is for them, but are interested in exploring their options.
News items about previous work experience visits:
- 2016 Work Experience Week
- 2015 Work Experience Week
- 2014 Work Experience Week
- 2013 Work Experience Visits
If you would like to discuss a different research experience placement we may be able to accommodate a your requests. Please contact the ICG Work Experience and Research Placements Organizer, Dr. Dan Whalen via daniel.whalen ‘at’ port.ac.uk for more details.