Vacation Scholarships

Faculty of Science Vacation Research Scholarships

These Vacation Scholarships are available for students currently enrolled at in second year or above in Physics or a related discipline. The Scholarships are valued at $3800 for a 6 week research project over the 2017-2018 Summer Vacation.

    Closing date: 22 September 2017

A list of some research projects offered by academics in the School of Physics is below. Contact the supervisor directly if you are interested in a project.

Further information and online application forms available here .

Read about what some previous summer’s scholars did here:

Possible Summer Research Research in the School of Physics

This is not an exhaustive list of projects. Please contact other academics directly to inquire if they will offer projects.

A/Prof Adam Micolich
Self-assembled nanostructures for quantum device and bioelectronics applications
The Nanoelectronics group works on the development of devices featuring self-assembled nanostructures, e.g., III-V nanowires & nanofins, and carbon nanotubes. Our work takes two directions. The first is dedicated to quantum devices and development of novel materials combinations and nanoscale architectures for studying excitonic superfluidity and topological insulator behaviour in the 1D limit. The second focusses on bioelectronics and includes projects on making complementary circuits for neural sensing by combining nanowires with soft ion-transporting materials, nanotube transistors for electrical detection of passing actin filaments in maze-based biological computation devices and nanowire sensors for simultaneous electrical/optical studies of protein motors at the single molecule level. More details of what we do can be found at

Dr Maria Cunningham
Understanding how the Milky Way galaxy evolves using the methods of data-intensive science (AKA “Big Data”)
In this project you will compare observations of gas in the Milky Way Galaxy, collected by  radio telescopes around the world, with theoretical models, to determine how the the births and deaths of stars drive the evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. The evolution of the Universe is driven by the evolution of galaxies. In turn, stars drive the evolution of of galaxies, by the processes surrounding their births and deaths. We now collect many more observations from radio telescopes than can be analysed manually, and so developing automated means of understanding the tsunami of data now being collected is essential. In this project, you will develop both an understanding of the astrophysics of the interstellar medium in galaxies, and how we can use data-intensive science to understand this complex medium. This project will give you an opportunity to develop your computational physics skills, particularly with Python.

Dr Peter Reece
Optical Tweezing of Nanoparticles for Nanoscale Sensing
In the Photonics and Optoelectronics Group we like to use high intensity lasers to trap different types of nanoparticles and interrogate their physical and optical properties. We then use adaptive optics techniques to manipulate these trapped nanoparticles to their interactions with the local environment.  Such nanoparticle can function as high precision nanoscale sensors for a range of possible applications. We offer several optical tweezers related projects focused on (i) developing instrumentation for trapping and spectroscopy, (ii) studying novel types of nanoparticles, and (iii) using existing nanoparticle sensors for studying interesting physical phenomena.

Dr Dimi Culcer
There are 2 possible project areas:
The first is electrical control of spin-orbit qubits: Electrical control of quantum bits could pave the way for scalable quantum computation. The spin-orbit interaction provides a pathway towards this goal: an electric field changes the electron's momentum and, through the spin-orbit interaction, it rotates its spin as well. Our recent work has found that certain quantum bits based on spin-3/2 holes in semiconductors can be effectively controlled by electrical means using a gate electrode, which offers fast one- and two-qubit rotations. However, the spin-orbit interaction also brings with it sensitivity to random electric fields, such as those due to phonons and noise, and can result in a decrease in coherence. The aim of this project is to determine what the trade-off is between fast electrical control and decoherence: can we make electrical spin qubits fast enough that we do not need to worry about loss of quantum information?
The other is looking at quantum transport in topological materials: Topological materials, such as topological insulators, Weyl semimetals, and strongly spin-orbit coupled semiconductors, have attracted considerable attention due to their potential in spin electronics and quantum computation. Recent work has revealed the presence of topological terms in their electrical response, which are generally associated with the Berry phase and lead to quantized values of e.g. certain components of the conductivity, which can be measured experimentally. However, the interplay of topological effects with unavoidable disorder and electron-electron interactions is not well understood and the subject of much controversy. Our group has recently developed a theory capturing these effects on the same footing. In this project we will study this interplay in a series of hotly researched materials such as Weyl semimetals and topological insulators.

Dr. Julian Berengut
Calculating unknown spectra of superheavy elements
The study of the superheavy elements (nuclear charge Z > 100) is an important multidisciplinary area of research involving nuclear physics, atomic physics, and chemistry. Calculations of the atomic spectra are needed for planning and interpreting measurements; these involve understanding the role of quantum electrodynamic and many-body effects. Our group has developed  high precision computer codes for atomic calculations. A student should use these codes to perform calculations of atomic properties to help guide experimental efforts.
A strong interest in theoretical physics and numerical calculations is essential for this project.

Prof Alex Hamilton
There are two possible project areas:
1. Measurements of artificial atoms made with spin-3/2 electrons
This project will explore the properties of semiconductor holes in quantum dots. Holes come from the valence band, and so have l=1 and s=1/2, unlike electrons in the conduction band which have l=0 and s=1/2. This gives holes completely different spin properties than electrons. We are now able to make artificial atoms consisting of 1,2,3...9 holes, and study the shell filling and magnetic structure of these devices. The strong coupling between the spin s and angular momentum l means that, unlike electrons, holes possess very strong spin-orbit coupling (l.s). This is of great interest for spin-based electronics and computing applications, since it allows the spin of the hole to be manipulated solely with electrical fields. There are many fundamental questions that remain to be explored...
2. Projects related to Future Low Energy Electronics Technologies
These projects are related to the new ARC Centre of Excellence FLEET. One project is related to the characterisation and assessment of new oxide based heterostructure materials, in which students use custom made cryostats and magnet systems to perform  electrical characterisation of new materials and devices grown and fabricated at UNSW. A second project will investigate the use of anodic oxidation for device nanofabrication, using a combination of simple chemical processes, electrical measurements, and structural measurements using an atomic force microscope.

Prof Joe Wolfe
Woodwind legato transients
The player closes a tone hole or three, the effective length of the resonator changes, so the standing wave acquires a new wavelength, and the note a new pitch. This project looks at the process in detail, as energy is lost from one resonance and stored in another. We’ll look at the clarinet: it is the ‘lab rat’ for woodwinds, and we study it sometimes with live players, and sometimes with artificial playing systems. Here is one page of introductory background reading, and some relevant research results.