NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA)

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Reseach Council (NSERC) promotes opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in research in the natural sciences and engineering by funding Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRAs) in which students work on individual research projects under the supervision of a faculty member.

Where do I find information about USRAs?

NSERC USRAs are tenable for a 16-consecutive-week duration, and in principle, can be held in any term during the academic year. In most cases, they are held during the summer session.  In addition to a stipend provided by NSERC, a faculty supervisor also contributes funds.

Further details about these awards including eligibility criteria can be found on the NSERC website.

How do I apply for a USRA?

As one might expect for a national program, the competition for NSERC USRA awards is very strong, however the rewards are great if you succeed. The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria is typically allocated 6 - 8 awards per year and strongly encourages all interested students (both local and from other universities across Canada) with first or high second class standing to apply.

For a list of project descriptions, see below. 
A separate application must be submitted for each research project and a candidate may not apply for more than two projects.
An application consists of the following:
• Cover letter
• Resume
• NSERC Form 202 Part I
• Post-secondary transcript(s)*
*An unofficial transcript is acceptable for all UVic students to upload on to the NSERC site as long as the UVic transcript shows the transfer credits from any other post secondary institution(s)]. Official transcripts must be uploaded for students from other institutions applying for a USRA tenable at UVic.

Application deadlines are dependent on the term in which the USRA is tenable and are listed with the project descriptions.
Send applications to the attention of Susan Gnucci, Administrative Officer at sgnucci@uvic.ca

USRA project descriptions 2019-20

SUMMER TERM (MAY - AUG 2019) PROJECTS:
Application deadline:  February 11, 2019

Project Title:  Understanding of gold nanoparticle transport in three-dimensional tissue models
Supervisor: Dr. Devika Chithrani
Gold nanoparticles (GNPs) are being used as drug carriers and radiation dose enhancers in cancer research. It is important to know how the size and shape of these NPs affect their transport in a tumor-like environment. We have three-dimensional tissue models developed to mimic an actual tumor microenvironment. The goal of this project is to test the transport dynamics of GNPs of different sizes and shapes using these three-dimensional tissue models. The outcome of this research will pave the way for further optimization of the interface between nanotechnology and medicine.

Project Title:  Designing low-noise superconducting flux qubits for quantum computing applications
Supervisor: Dr. Rogério de Sousa
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) are among the most sensitive detectors of magnetic fields, and a major building block for quantum computer architectures based on superconducting materials, such as the one developed by D-Wave systems. Currently, the best SQUID based qubits have a coherence time of the order of 10 microseconds, which is about 10 times lower than the desired quantum error correction threshold. The origin of this low coherence time is intrinsic flux noise from the materials that form the SQUID, most likely due to the fluctuation of spins located at the metal-oxide and substrate interfaces [1, 2]. In collaboration with scientists at D-Wave systems (Burnaby, B.C.) we are currently searching for new qubit designs that minimize flux noise. The goal of this project is to perform theoretical calculations of flux noise for different superconducting wire geometries.
[1] T. Lanting, M.H. Amin, A.J. Berkley, C. Rich, S.-F. Chen, S. LaForest, and R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 89, 014503 (2014).
[2] S. LaForest and R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 92, 054502 (2015).

Project Title:  Computing the energy levels of the quantum Heisenberg model using IBM-Q
Supervisor: Dr. Rogério de Sousa
Quantum computing is becoming a reality with three companies (IBM, D-Wave, Rigetti) making their devices freely available over the cloud [1]. However, these so called "Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum Devices" (NISQ) give rise to uncertain results due to device noise. One key problem in the research with NISQs is to find a computationally-cost-effective procedure to extract reliable results from a noisy quantum computation [2]. In this project the student will implement the quantum phase estimation algorithm [3] to find the energy levels of the Heisenberg model of interacting quantum spins in a lattice. The student will submit the algorithm for calculation in the IBM-Q processor for evaluation using an actual quantum device, and will compare with exact results using exact diagonalization methods. This will allow an estimate of the impact of noise on the IBM-Q device.
[1] See e.g. the IBM-Q website, https://www.research.ibm.com/ibm-q. [2] K. Temme et al, Error Mitigation for Short-Depth Quantum Circuits, Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 180509 (2017). [3] See e.g. section 5.2 of "Quantum Computation and Quantum Information", M.A. Nielsen and I.L. Chuang (10th aniversary edition, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).

Project Title: Our Galaxy in a Computer: Supercomputer simulations of the Local Group of Galaxies
Supervisor: Dr. Julio Navarro
A motivated student is sought to join and carry out original research with Prof. Navarro’s group. A number of research project lines are currently open, many of them exploiting the rich dataset of the suite of cosmological hydrodynamical simulations of the EAGLE and APOSTLE projects. Possible topics include (i) the origin of the Magellanic Stream; (ii) the predicted inventory of the satellite population of the Magellanic Clouds; and (iii) the effects of the reionization redshift on the properties of the faintest dwarfs, among others. The student will familiarize him/herself with the handling of data from cosmological simulations, will read the relevant literature, analyze the data, and collaborate with other members of the group. A keen interest in Galactic, Extragalactic Astronomy, and Cosmology is required; experience with high-level programming languages and Python would be a plus.

Project Title: Development of Picosecond Time Resolved Magnetic Microscope
Supervisor: Dr. Byoung-Chul Choi
The primary responsibility of the student is to develop a working Time-Resolved Magneto-Optical Kerr Effect Microscope, which will be used for the study of magnetization dynamics in small (typically a few hundred nanometers in size) magnetic elements. Experimental arrangements are based on an optical microscope, including a femtosecond pulsed laser as a light source, a piezo-driven flexure stage for scanning the sample, and electronics controlling the optical delay line. Magnetic measurements will be accomplished through the polarization analysis of the reflected laser light in an optical bridge. The student is also expected to work on the fabrication of nanoelements using the Nanofabrication Facility in the department.

Project Title: Muon Detector Construction and Testing for ATLAS upgrades
Supervisor: Dr. Rob McPherson
After the first two successful runs, the ATLAS Collaboration is engaged to exploit the full physics potential of the LHC scheduled to operate at increasing luminosities in the coming years. This will make the forward muon detector subject to high occupancies leading to problems in reconstructing forward muon tracks. It will also result in higher event trigger rates due to high levels of background rates. To address this, ATLAS will replace the forward muon detectors (called the muon wheels) with new high precision muon chambers that will have improved trigger capabilities which will allow for a reduction in the background levels. The project will be based at CERN, working on the construction of new small-strip thin-gap chambers (sTGC) for ATLAS, as well as installation and testing front-end readout electronics on the chambers and analysis of calibration data.

 

FALL TERM (SEP - DEC 2019) PROJECTS:
Application deadline:  June 28, 2019

Project Title: Observational Planet Formation
Supervisor: Dr. Ruobing Dong
Planets form in gaseous protoplanetary disks surrounding newborn stars. As such, the most direct way to learn how they form from observations is to watch them forming in disks. In the past decade, a fleet of new instruments with unprecedented resolving power have come online. These instruments have unveiled features in resolved images of protoplanetary disks, such as gaps and spiral arms, that are most likely associated with embedded (unseen) planets. By comparing observations with theoretical models of planet-disk interactions, the properties of these still forming planets may be constrained. Such planets help us understand how planets form.
To this end, here are a few possibilities of an undergraduate research project.
  * There are about 30 disks that have been observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in millimeter dust continuum emission with sub-10 AU spatial resolution. In almost all cases, rings and gaps have been detected. These images have also given us an excellent idea on how mm-size dust particles are distributed throughout the disk. The student will use these state-of-the-art ALMA observations to compose a model to answer the question: what a "typical" protoplanetary disk looks like? Such a model could serve as the starting point in the study of planet formation.
  * Structures in disks can be used to infer the presence and properties of unseen planets. The student will combine the latest ALMA and near-infrared scattered light imaging observations to fit one to a few target disks using numerical simulations (hydrodynamics and radiative transfer) to answer a question: what kind of unseen planets are forming in these disks and producing the observed disk structures.

USRA project descriptions 2018-19

SUMMER TERM (MAY - AUG 2018) PROJECTS:
Application deadline:  February 15, 2018

Project Title: Cancer Nanotechnology: Transport of gold nanoparticles in three dimensional tumor tissue models
Supervisor: Dr. B. Devika Chithrani
Nanotechnology is at the forefront of cancer research around the world. Among other nanoparticle systems, gold nanoparticles are being used as radiation dose enhancer in radiation therapy. Gold nanoparticles are biocompatible and being successfully tested in early phase clinical trials. However, we do not fully understand how the nanoparticles transport through tumor tissue once they leave the tumor blood vessels. Hence, the goal of this project is to grow three dimensional tissue models and test their transport through the tissue. We will change the size and surface properties of nanoparticles to elucidate the variation in tissue penetration. Outcome of this will result in accelerate their use in the future cancer care.
In this project, student will learn to grow three dimensional tumor tissue in our laboratory followed by studying the nanoparticle penetration through the tissue after 24 hours of incubation. During the project, student will learn the following: synthesis of gold nanoparticles; characterization of nanoparticles, cell culture, quantification of nanoparticle uptake using ICP-MS technique, and imaging of nanoparticles in cells using hyper spectral microscopy. The project will be done in collaboration with Nanoscience and Technology Development Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA), and CAMTECH facility in University of Victoria.

Project Title: Experimental particle physics detector R&D project
Supervisor: Dr. J.M. Roney
Belle II is a particle physics detector that will collect data at the SuperKEKB electron-positron collider in Japan beginning in 2018. It will perform precision measurements in the quark and lepton sectors of the Standard Model to search for new fundamental physical processes. The energy and momentum of particles produced in the collisions are measured in several subsystems of Belle II. One of the subsystems is an array of roughly 9000 CsI(Tl) scintillation crystals arranged around the interaction region of the electron-positron collider. This project will investigate the impact of using differences in the pulse shapes of signals from a Belle II CsI(Tl) scintillator produced by different types of particles as they interact in the crystal to help identify the type of interacting particle. Particles interacting with the strong force, such as neutrons, protons, pions, have a different pulse shape than other particles. The student project will involve the collection and analysis of data from spare Belle II CsI(Tl) crystals exposed to cosmic rays and radio-active sources to study the impact of various systematic effects, such as temperature and radiation damage, on the effectiveness of hadronic/electromagnetic pulse shape discrimination. It will also involve work with GEANT4 simulations of the CsI(Tl) scintillator detector. This research will be conducted in the University of Victoria’s VISPA Research Centre (www.uvic.ca/science/physics/vispa/).

Project Title: Spectroscopic Surveys, Precision & Data Analysis
Supervisor: Dr. Kim Venn
Spectroscopy is required to study the physical parameters of stars, such as temperature, pressure, and the detailed chemical abundances. Spectroscopic surveys are done to use these properties to map out our Galaxy to study its formation and evolution. Spectroscopic surveys require and produce millions of spectra, and require both precision observations and fast analysis techniques for timely scientific results. We have two projects in our group; one using machine learning techniques for the efficient data analysis of spectra in the SDSS and other spectroscopic survey data releases, and the second in precision testing of optical fibres that deliver the spectra to the detectors. We are seeking science, computer science, and/or engineering students with some background on one of these topics, programming skills (ideally in python), and the ability to work both independently and in a team.

SPRING TERM (JAN - APR 2019) PROJECTS:
Application deadline: October 31, 2018

Project Title: Cloud computing for high energy physics
Supervisor: Dr. Randy Sobie
The High Energy Physics Group at the University of Victoria has an opening for one student the fall term. The position will involve working on the development of a distributed cloud computing environment for particle physics and other computationally intensive applications. (see http://heprc.phys.uvic.ca/) Our group is focusing on the development of systems and software that function on Infrastructure-as-a Service cloud computing platforms like the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and OpenStack. We have been involved with open source projects like OpenStack (http://www.openstack.org/) and have had students participate in the Google Summer of Code Program (TM). Our present focus is on High Throughput Computing for high energy physics applications on cloud platforms for the ATLAS experiment in the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN Laboratory in Geneva and the Belle II experiment at the KEK Laboratory in Japan.
Our research is constantly changing, so projects vary from term to term. Students participate in all phases of a project, from conception to production. Previous students have left this position having gained a breadth of knowledge in cloud software, virtualization, development and system administration using open source tools on Linux.

Project Title: ALTAIR observations and data analysis
Supervisor: Dr. Justin Albert
The ALTAIR (Airborne Laser for Telescopic Atmosphere Interference Reduction) project is an international collaboration to provide a precision [0(0.1% uncertainty] photometric reference calibration for astronomical observatories using high-altitude weather balloon flights at altitudes of approximately 20 km with payloads containing in-situ-calibrated light sources, in order to eliminate the largest uncertainty on measurements of dark energy using type Ia supernovae.
ALTAIR has flown 15 test flights so far and is now transitioning from testing to an operational phase. The student will assist in both the operations and data analysis of the ALTAIR flights. Additionally, the student will assist with the testing of components for future ALTAIR flights, such as new integrating spheres and light sources.

Project Title: Photosensors for Super-K and Hyper-K
Supervisor: Dr. Dean Karlen
The student will perform studies of the photosensors for the Super-Kamiokande detector and the proposed photosensors for the recently approved Hyper-Kamiokande detector.  These massive water Cerenkov detectors are for research into neutrino properties and proton decay.  
The Super-Kamiokande work will use the photosensor test facility (PTF) at TRIUMF.  The key features of the PTF are the ability to fire laser light at a PMT from arbitrary angles and directions and measure the reflected laser light at various points.  This is done by using a pair of optical heads that are translated/rotated using a motor-controlled gantry system.
In parallel, the student will be involved in developing a new photosensor called a multi-PMT for the future Hyper-Kamiokande near detector.  It is a detector with multiple photomultipliers housed within an acryllic vessel.  The main focus will be to develop the gel puck between the PMT and the acrylic dome.  The assembly of the PMT/reflector/gel component, whose support is made by 3-D printing, will be optimized for simpler assembly and better performance.

Project Title: Cosmological Chemical Evolution
Supervisor: Dr. Falk Herwig
Chemical evolution of galaxies is a mature subject in Astronomy, combining the investigation of how the elements form in stars and stellar explosions with the physics of galaxy evolution and the properites of stellar populations in their galactic content.  The evolution of elements in the large and mature galaxies like our own is relatively well understood.  However, the situation is different concerning our understanding of the evolution of the elements in the first phase of the nascent universe right after the Big Bang when the first stars and small galaxies formed.  This project will start with a contribution to post-process a small number of massive star stellar evolution models from the NuGrid model library (Ritter et al. 2018 MNRAS 480, 538) that are presently improved using the NuGrid nucleosynthesis codes (about 1 month).  Then the updated yields will be included and tested in our galactic chemical evolution framework (NuPyCEE, Ritter et al. 2018 doi:10.5281/zenodo.1288696) and tested. An application will be to explore the evolution of isotopic abundances of the CNO isotope to test ideas proposed by our former group member Marco Pignatari (Pignatari et al. 2015. ApJL. 808(2):L43). This will take (1-2 month). The remaining time will be used to explore the conditions in the early universe by using the galactic chemical evolution code extension GAMMA developed by our former group member (Côté et al. 2018, ApJ. 859:67) with the updated yields.

USRA project descriptions 2017-18

Project Title: Application of Nanotechnology in cancer therapy
Supervisor: Dr. B. Devika Chithrani
Nanotechnology is at the forefront of cancer research around the world. Among other nanoparticle systems, gold nanoparticles are being used as radiation dose enhancers in radiation therapy. Gold nanoparticles are biocompatible and being successfully tested in early phase clinical trials. One of the most effective cancer treatment options is to use chemoradiation (concurrent use of radiation therapy and chemotherapy). Hence, the goal of this project is to incorporate gold nanoparticles into cancer cells along with anticancer drugs to see whether there is an improvement in the therapeutic outcome since gold nanoparticles can enhance the radiation dose.
In this project, the student will incubate the cancer cells with both gold nanoparticles and anticancer drugs. After an incubation period of 8 hours, cells will be treated with a radiation dose of 2Gy. After the treatment, the effectiveness of the treatment will be assessed using the cell survival assay. During the project, the student will learn the following: synthesis of gold nanoparticles; characterization of nanoparticles; cell culture; quantification of nanoparticle uptake using ICP-MS technique; and imaging of nanoparticles in cells using hyper spectral microscopy. The project will be done in collaboration with Nanoscience and Technology Development Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA), and CAMTEC facility in University of Victoria.

Project Title: Search for Dark Matter with the ATLAS detector at the LHC.
Supervisor: Dr Michel Lefebvre
The ATLAS experiment is located at the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory, near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC provides proton-proton collisions at the highest energy ever reached in the laboratory. The ATLAS UVic group, with members at CERN and at UVic, is involved in many aspects of the ATLAS experiment, including the search for dark matter particles. If produced at the LHC, dark matter particles are by their nature undetected by ATLAS. Their presence is sought in events with missing transverse momentum in association with another Standard Model particle. Our group is working on the search for dark matter produced in association with a Z boson, itself clearly identified by its decay into an electron-positron pair or a muon-antimuon pair. This search involves looking for rare events in the presence of large backgrounds. Understanding the sources of background events is a key component of the data analysis. In this USRA project, the student will learn about the ATLAS detector and ATLAS data analysis. The student will assist our team in the assessment of the search sensitivity to various dark matter models, and in establishing strategies to estimate backgrounds using actual collision data and simulated events. The project is based at UVic, and could involve two months at CERN if in conjunction with an IPP Summer Student Fellowship. Basic knowledge of Special Relativity and C++ would be useful.

Project Title: ARIEL converter cooling design
Supervisors:  Dr. Alex Gottberg and Dr. Dean Karlen

The purpose of the new ARIEL electron linear accelerator at TRIUMF is to produce isotopes by bombarding target materials with high energy gamma rays. The isotopes will be used for research in nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, materials science, and for medical application development. A significant challenge for the facility is to ensure that sufficient cooling is provided for the electron-to-gamma converter. Working with staff at UVic and TRIUMF, the student will participate in computer modelling and prototype design, manufacture, and tests of the electron-to-gamma converter. Occasional short term travel to TRIUMF may be required.

Project Title: Experimental particle physics detector R&D project
Supervisor: Dr. J.M. Roney
Belle II is a particle physics detector that will collect data at the SuperKEKB electron-positron collider in Japan beginning in late 2017. It will perform precision measurements in the quark and lepton sectors of the Standard Model to search for new fundamental physical processes. The energy and momentum of particles produced in the collisions are measured in several subsystems of Belle II. One of the subsystems is an array of roughly 9000 CsI(Tl) scintillation crystals arranged around the interaction region of the electron-positron collider. This project will investigate the impact of using differences in the pulse shapes of signals from a Belle II CsI(Tl) scintillator produced by different types of particles as they interact in the crystal to help identify the type of interacting particle. Particles interacting with the strong force, such as neutrons, protons, pions, have a different pulse shape than other particles. The project will involve the analysis of data from spare Belle II CsI(Tl) crystals exposed to particles in test beams at TRIUMF (www.triumf.ca/) radioactive sources, and cosmic rays. It will also involve work with GEANT4 simulations of the CsI(Tl) scintillator detector. This research will be conducted in the University of Victoria’s VISPA Research Centre (www.uvic.ca/science/physics/vispa/) and will possibly involve travel to Vancouver for a few days to take data in TRIUMF test beams.

Project Title: Software developer: Python data-analysis for computational astrophysics
Supervisor: Dr. Falk Herwig
Members of our Computational Stellar Astrophysics group produce and analyse large data sets from a variety of simulation codes, such as MESA, PPMstar, NuGrid. To analyse and explore our data sets, our group, together with our international collaborators, have developed and are maintaining and improving a family of scientific python codes, such as NuGridPy. Our group is also involved in CANFAR, the Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research, and here the primary goal is to develop and improve technololgies to make data analysis and exploration available remotely, in a Software-as-a-Service paradigm. This project involes jupyter/docker based virtualization technologies. This position will support the various aspects of our scientific computing program, including scientific python programing, regression testing, module development and close interaction with the scientists in our group and in external collaborations. The successful candidate will have prior experience in some high-level computer language and ideally some previous exposure to programming in python (such as PHYS248). Most important are motivation and eagerness to engage with the project needs of our group members.

Project Title: IR spectroscopy of metal-rich stars
Supervisor: Dr. Kim Venn
The RAVEN multi object adaptive optics science demonstrator was a great success at obtaining diffraction-limited, high-resolution IR spectra of stars towards the Galactic Centre simultaneously. During the commissioning runs, spectra of both metal-poor (published as Lamb et al. 2016) and metal-rich stars were obtained. This project is for a mature research student to examine and analyze the reduced spectra of the metal-rich stars for the first time. Good programming and data reduction skills will be needed, as well as an ability to work within our group, both independently and creatively.

Project Title: Theoretical design of low-noise superconducting wires
Supervisor: Dr. Rogerio de Sousa
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) are the major building block for quantum computer architectures such as the one developed by D-Wave systems. Currently, the best SQUID based qubits have a coherence time of the order of 10 microseconds, which is about 10 times lower than the desired quantum error correction threshold. The origin of this low coherence time is intrinsic flux noise from the materials that form the SQUID, most likely due to the fluctuation of spins located at the metal-oxide and substrate interfaces. In collaboration with scientists at D-Wave we are currently searching for new materials and device designs that minimize flux noise.  The student will perform theoretical calculations of flux noise for superconducting (SC) wires formed by materials with different coherence length. The student will use a recently developed numerical scheme to compute the SC current density as a function of coherence length, and will develop computer code to calculate physical properties such as flux and inductance, and their associated noise power in the presence of spin impurities.

USRA project descriptions 2016-17

Project Title: Monte Carlo simulations of advanced radiotherapy techniques
Supervisor: Dr. Magdalena Bazalova-Carter
The student will generate software for easy implementation of Monte Carlo dose calculations of clinical and advance plans on patient CT datasets.  The Monte Carlo dose calculations will be performed using the VirtualLinac web-based interface (Varian Medical Systems, Palo Alto, CA) using two input files generated by the student in a python graphical user interface (GUI):  1) phantom file generated from patient computed tomography (CT) images with user-defined voxel resolution and calibration curve and 2)  Developer Mode .xml file defining the machine trajectories, including collimator rotation, MLC settings and couch position.  In addition, the GUI will be capable to generate .xml files for moving geometries, 4DCT data sets and electron fields shaped by MLCs with shortened SSD.  The developed GUI will be used for calculations of dose for advanced radiotherapy techniques, such as total body irradiations (TBI), craniospinal irradiations(CSI), and mixed electron/photon intensity modulated radiotherapy (MPERT) treatments.  The former part of the project will be performed in collaboration with Dr. Daren Sawkey of Varian and the clinical applications will be done in collaboration with Dr. Benjamin Fahimian of Stanford University and Drs. Sergei Zavgorodni and Isabelle Gagne of the BC Cancer Agency. 
The student will be reponsible for generating the python GUI and for its sextensive testing on a number of clinical cases.  The student will design the GUI to allow user-friendly inputs for unconventional beam setups and will make the GUI available to the medical physics research community.  The student will apply the GUI on CT data sets provided by our collaborators and calculate the patient doses for a number of TBI, CSI, and MPERT treatments.

Project Title: Galaxy evolution on the very largest scales
Supervisor: Dr. Jon Willis
Although it is known that galaxy evolution proceeds differently in rich galaxy clusters compared to the field, it remains unknown how the large scale structure beyond the scale of galaxy clusters affects galaxy evolution.  This project will use a database of 6000 galaxy clusters drawn from the K2 galaxy catalogue (Thanjavur et al. 2010).  The aim is to identify which galaxy clusters are located in dense regions of the universe and which are located in voids.  The project will then use Canada France Hawaii Legacy Survey images and photometry of galaxies within these clusters to determine whether subtle differences (e.g. galaxy colours and spatial distribution about the cluster centre) exist beween galaxies in clusters as a function of the scale of the cluster.  Such questions have never been addressed in the literature before and the project promises interesting new results.
A successful applicant for the research project should have good computer skills (e.g. unix, python or c programming) and a background in astronomy (such that concepts in galaxy photometry and cosmology can be understood).

Project Title: ALTAIR observations and data analysis
Supervisor: Dr. Justin Albert
The ALTAIR (Airborne Laser for Telescopic Atmosphere Interference Reduction) project is an international collaboration to provide a precision [0(0.1% uncertainty] photometric reference calibration for astronomical observatories using high-altitude weather balloon flights at altitudes of approximately 20 km with payloads containing in-situ-calibrated light sources, in order to eliminate the largest uncertainty on measurements of dark energy using type Ia supernovae.
ALTAIR has flown 15 test flights so far and is now transitioning from testing to an operational phase. This summer, we will be performing flights in New Hampshire and in Arizona over Mt. Hopkins (and possibly in Hawaii over the Pan-STARRS Observatory). Our student will assist in both the operations and data analysis of the ALTAIR flights this summer.
Additionally, our student will assist with the testing of components for future ALTAIR flights, such as new integrating spheres and light sources.

Project Title: Designing low-noise superconducting flux qubits for quantum computing applications
Supervisor: Dr. Rogerio de Sousa
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) are among the most sensitive detectors of magnetic fields, and a major building block for quantum computer architectures based on superconducting materials, such as the one developed by D-Wave systems, inc. Currently, the best SQUID based qubits have a coherence time of the order of 10 microseconds, which is about 10 times lower than the desired quantum error correction threshold. The origin of this low coherence time is intrinsic flux noise from the materials that form the SQUID, most likely due to the fluctuation of spins located at the metal-oxide and substrate interfaces [1, 2]. In collaboration with scientists at D-Wave systems (Burnaby, B.C.) we are currently searching for new qubit designs that minimize flux noise. The goal of this project is to perform theoretical calculations of flux noise for different superconducting wire geometries.
[1] T. Lanting, M.H. Amin, A.J. Berkley, C. Rich, S.-F. Chen, S.
LaForest, and R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 89, 014503 (2014).
[2] S. LaForest and R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 92, 054502 (2015).

Project title: Search for Dark Matter with the ATLAS detector at the LHC.
Supervisor: Dr Michel Lefebvre
The ATLAS experiment is located at the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory, near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC provides proton-proton collisions at the highest energy ever reached in the laboratory. The ATLAS UVic group, with members at CERN and at UVic, is involved in many aspects of the ATLAS experiment, including the search for dark matter particles. If produced at the LHC, dark matter particles are by their nature undetected by ATLAS. Their presence is sought in events with missing transverse momentum in association with another Standard Model particle. Our group is working on the search for dark matter produced in association with a Z boson, itself clearly identified by its decay into an electron-positron pair or a muon-antimuon pair. This search involves looking for rare events in the presence of large backgrounds. Understanding the sources of background events is a key component of the data analysis. The USRA project involves learning about ATLAS data analysis, including strategies to estimate backgrounds using actual collision data and simulated events. Basic knowledge of Special Relativity and C++ would be useful.

Project Title: Evaluating photon-hadron separation in CsI(Tl) Scintillators
Supervisor: Dr. J.M. Roney

This is a hardware and simulation project that is based in Victoria. It involves measurements with Thallium-doped Cesium Iodide CsI(Tl) scintillators exposed to photons, neutrons and alpha particles and run simulation code describing the experiments. The goal is to determine whether or not the CsI(Tl) scintillators that comprise the Belle II calorimeter have a time response that can provide discrimination between electromagnetic and hadronic showers. The outcome of these experiments will directly impact the data to beextracted from the Belle II calorimeter.
The Belle II experiment will be located at the SuperKEKB e+e- collider at the KEK laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan. It is a successor to the successful Belle and BaBar experiments, which were cited for their contributions to the phenomenon of CP violation in the 2008 Physics Nobel Prize. The primary physics goal of Belle II is to search for evidence of new physics through a wide range of measurements that are sensitive to the presence of heavy virtual particles, and that can be precisely predicted in the Standard Model. These measurements could include CP violation and other asymmetries, rare decays, or forbidden decays. If new physics is found at the LHC, Belle II can explore its nature by looking for a pattern of deviations from the Standard Model. Belle II will also be sensitive to the direct production of new light particles, including those predicted by dark sector models of dark matter, or additional Higgs particles, particles that will be difficult to detect at the LHC. The experiment will also continue the exploration of the weak force and CP violation, a program successfully followed by BaBar and Belle.
The student will conduct measurements with a CsI(Tl) scintillator exposed to cosmic rays, photons, alpha particles, and a neutron source in the Elliott Building on the University of Victoria campus to determine whether or not there is sufficient differences in time structure to be able to use this in the Belle II calorimeter. If time permits, the student will also prepare simulations of the neutron source and the response of the detector to the neutrons.

USRA project descriptions 2015-16

Scientific Computing Tools for Analysis of Astrophysics Simulations
Supervisor: Dr. Falk Herwig
All the chemical elements heavier than hydrogen, helium, and lithium have been created inside stars by nuclear reactions.  During their lifetime, stars eject a significant fraction of their newly synthesized elements in the interstellar medium, which is the gas that fills the space between stars.  Once ejected, those new elements wil eventually be mixed with other elements and recycled to form new generations of stars that will one more time transform the existing elements into new heavier elements.  In our group, we have developed a chemical evolution model that captures this stellar life cycle and predicts how the chemical elements are modified with time inside a galaxy.  In this project, new python codes will be developed to introduce additional physical processes to make our galaxy simulations more realistic.  The project will also make additions to the library of observed stellar abundance to which the models are compared.  This project involved python programming.  This project will be performed within the international NuGrid collaboration (http://www.nugridstars.org) and in collaboration with the NSF Physics Centre Joint Institute for Nucelar Astrophysics (JINA).  The student will be involved in applying and testing already existing codes.  The student will use the codes to build sample models of extra-galactic systems and combine them with observational data.  The main thrust of the student's work will be in devleoping additional utilities and modules and to maintain and improve existing codes.  This includes making the tools more user friendly so that they can benefit a larger number of our international collaborators.

Scientific Computing Tools for Analysis of Astrophysics Simulations
Supervisor:  Dr. Falk Herwig
The computational stellar astrophysics group (http://csa.phys.uvic.ca) is engaged in a number of scientfic computing projects that use the python language.  The tools that the group develops and maintains are used to analyse astrophysics simulation data and facilitate the comparison with observations to test the models.  One emphasis will be on improving the NuGridPy python package (http://nugridpy.nugridstars.org) that supports the international NuGrid collaboration.  The goal of this collaboration is to construct computer simulations that represent the physics of the origin of elements in stars and stellar explosions.  The student will work in a team of six group members including post-docs and graduate students as well as many international collaborators.  The student will homogenize the code base, participate in testing and debugging existing software and contribute to the development of new algorithms.  An important part of the student's responsibility will be to implement new analysis modules that support the interpretation of large-scale 3D hydrodynamic simulations of stellar convection.

Cloud Computing for High Energy Physics
Supervisor:  Dr. Randall Sobie
The High Energy Physics Group at the University of Victoria will employ a student interested in working on the development of a distributed cloud computing environment for particle physics applications. (see http://heprc.phys.uvic.ca/). Our group is focusing on the development of systems and software that function on Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud computing platforms like the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and OpenStack. Our systems are used to operate clouds in Europe, Australia, United States and Canada, primarily for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva Switzerland. Our research is constantly changing, so projects vary from term to term. Students participate in all phases of a project, from conception to production. Previous students have left this position having gained a breadth of knowledge in cloud software, virtualization, development and system administration using open source tools on Linux. The experience gained on our projects has benefited students who have moved on to graduate school or industry

Project Title: ATLAS Upgrade Electronics and ATLAS Analaysis
Supervisor: Dr. Richard Keeler
The ATLAS experiment is at the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN Laboratory. Protons are being collided at the highest ever man-made energies. The ATLAS detector records the energy signatures of the collisions. The data from these measurements gives us an unprecedented look at the physics in a new energy regime. Our group is making detailed high precision measurements to test the Standard Model; we are searching for dark matter at the LHC; and we are developing electronic baseplanes for the next upgrade of the Hadronic Endcap of the liquid argon calorimeters.
Dark matter particles are by their nature invisible. By searching for missing transverse energy in association with a weak boson, Z0, we can look for dark matter candidates. A number of recent theories have been modeled that we should be able to reject or hopefully find supporting evidence for them. This year will be our first look at this new higher energy.
The upgrade is the first step to a new electronic readout of the liquid argon calorimeters of the ATLAS experiment. In this phase, new electronics allows the experiment to make use of much higher rate collisions. Eventually a fully digital front end will be built based on our experience with this first step. We are testing the pre-production version of the boards. If they pass our tests, we will go into full production.

Project Title: Multivariate analysis of data from the ATLAS experiment
Supervisor: Dr. Robert Kowalewski
The CERN Large Hadron Collider is being prepared for a run at higher energy (8 -> 14 TeV) and higher intensity than previously achieved. We can only afford to store ~1/100,000 of the data produced by the collider, so the ATLAS trigger must reject the vast majority of uninteresting collisions and preserve the ability to search for new particles and interactions, refine measurements of the Higgs boson and collect data that is crucial to quantifying detector performance and understanding experimental backgrounds. The University of Victoria has been involved in the ATLAS high level trigger since 2007, and is one of the lead groups in the selection of events with an imbalance in the observed transverse momentum. This imbalance is the signature for particles that escape direct detections, such as neutrinos or, perhaps, particles predicted in theories of SuperSymmetry or Dark Matter. Further refinement of the current selection algorithms, in particular to deal with a sharply increased number of simultaneous proton-proton collisions in the next LHC run, is needed to preserve the ability to select these interesting events. During the May-August period, different approaches to improving the selectivity of the missing transverse energy trigger will be compared. The robustness and speed of the algorithms employed will also be evaluated and optimized. The final decision for the 2015 trigger configuration will need to be made in Fall, 2014. The student project will involve learning about multivariable methods and applying them to classification problems associated with ATLAS data, with a goal of improving our ability to seperate signal from background.

Project Title: Beam profile monitor system for the TRIUMF superconducting electron linear accelerator
Supervisor: Dr. Dean Karlen
ARIEL is a major new facility at the TRIUMF laboratory to enhance the laboratory's capability to produce rare isotopes for science and medicine. The newly constructed high power superconducting electron linear accelerator, known as the e-linac, is the cornerstone of the ARIEL facility. Our group at the University of Victoria is providing important beam diagnostics systems for the e-linac. We recently completed the construction and installation of the first phase of 16 view screen beam profile monitors and control cabinet which have operated successfully in low-power beam-tests. Each system consists of florescent and optical transition radiation foil targets that can be inserted into the beam at a 45 degree angle, and a camera system that records the beam profile with high precision. A calibration target is included to correct for optical and camera distortions. An additional 14 beam profile monitor systems are to be built along with a second control cabinet, for installation in the high energy section of the e-linac. The information from the beam profile monitors is essential to understand the properties of the accelerated beam. The student will work, with help and supervision from technical staff, to assemble, align, callibrate and test the 14 camera systems as well as help build and test the control system.  There may be opportunities to participate int he operation of the beam profile monitors at TRIUMF and in the analysis of the images collected by the system.

Project Title:  High energy physics application software development
Supervisor:  Dr. Randall Sobie
The High Energy Physics Group at the University of Victoria will employ a student interested in working on the development of a distributed cloud computing environment for particle physics applications. (see http://heprc.phys.uvic.ca/).
Our group is focusing on the development of systems and software that function on Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud computing platforms like the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and OpenStack. Our systems are used to operate clouds in Europe, Australia, United States and Canada, primarily for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva Switzerland.  Our research is constantly changing, so projects vary from term to term. Students participate in all phases of a project, from conception to production. Previous students have left this position having gained a breadth of knowledge in cloud software, virtualization, development and system administration using open source tools on Linux. The experience gained on our projects has benefited students who have moved on to graduate school or industry.

Project Title:  (Super) computing the universe: tracing the formation and evolution of cosmic structure
Supervisor:  Dr. Arif Babul
Galaxy groups and clusters are remarkable systems. With masses ranging from an equivalent of ten thousand billion to a million billion solar masses, these systems are the largest, most massive, gravitationally bound structures in the Universe. The largest of these are easy to identify out to vast distances: They stand out as rich concentrations of bright galaxies; they cause discernable distortions in the cosmic background radiation, and are among the most luminous X-ray sources in the universe. Due to their high visibility, galaxy groups and clusters are frequent targets of observational studies aimed at understanding the processes impacting the joint evolution of galaxies and cosmic baryons across the epochs. In fact, since groups and clusters collectively incorporate more than a third of the diffuse gas and more than a half of all bright galaxies in the low redshift universe, a unified, realistic, predictive model for the co-evolution of galaxies, black holes, and the hot diffuse gas in group and cluster environments is a prerequisite for furthering the larger agenda of understanding galaxy formation and more broadly, the evolution of the baryons in the universe. Since the formation of galaxies and of galaxy groups and clusters is influenced by an incredibly complex network of physical processes all interacting with one another, the emergence of cosmic structure is best studied using numerical simulations that attempt to replicate virtually the universe's 13.7 billion year history. As an NSERC USRA, you will work with the outputs of such simulations, both to analyze the outputs as well as explore innovative ways of representing the data. The overarching goal is to draw insights from the simulations about identify the conditions that endowed cosmic structure with their observed properties.

Project Title:  Carbon-rich stars as tracers of the early universe
Supervisor:  Dr. Kim Venn
It is currently thought that the first stars to form in galaxies were carbon-rich, based on some theoretical models and the evidence that the fractional abundance of carbon on most metal-poor stars is higher than the Sun.  In this summer project, we will examine carbon abundances in metal-poor stars.  This can include the analysis of optical spectra taken at the VLA for stars in a nearby dwarf galaxy, the analysis of IR spectra taken at the Subaru Telescope or available from the APOGEE survey database, and/or other database queries from photometric and spectroscopic surveys of stars in the Galaxy.

Project Title:  Theroretical study of flux noise in SQUIDS and superconducting qubits
Supervisor:  Dr. Rogerio de Sousa
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) are among the most sensitive detectors of magnetic fields, and a major building block for quantum computer architectures based on superconducting materials.  Currently, the best SQUID based qubits have a coherence time of the order of 10 microseconds, which is about 10 times lower than the desired quantum error correction threshold. The origin of this low coherence time is intrinsic flux noise from the materials that form the SQUID, most likely due to the fluctuation of spins located at the metal-oxide and substrate interfaces [1-3]. In collaboration with scientists at D-Wave systems (Burnaby, B.C.) we are currently searching for new qubit designs that minimize flux noise. The goal of this project is to consider the impact of shielding planes on flux noise.
[1] R.H. Koch, D.P. DiVincenzo, and J. Clarke, Phys. Rev. Lett. 98,
267003 (2007).
[2] R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 76, 245306 (2007).
[3] T. Lanting, M.H. Amin, A.J. Berkley, C. Rich, S.-F. Chen, S.

USRA project descriptions 2014-15

Project Title:  Cloud Computing at the University of Victoria
Supervisor:  Dr. Randy Sobie, IPP Research Scientist & Adjunct Professor
The Particle Physics group is active on the ATLAS particle physics experiment at the CERN Laboratory and the Belle-II experiment at the KEK accelerator.  This position will involve working on the development of a cloud computing environment for particle physics applications.  The Cloud at the University of Victoria has local resources but also has access to resources at other locations in Canada and the U.S.

Project Title:  Electronic Development for the ATLAS LAr Calorimeter Upgrade
Supervisor:  Dr. Richard Keeler, Professor
The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland is being upgraded to handle increased intensity.  The resulting increase in event rate will create problems for the existing trigger system.  Advances in electronics makes it possible for a more advanced trigger with the necessary capability to be built.  The new trigger requires that more information from the liquid argon calorimeters be made available to the trigger system.  This necessitates changes to the electronic readout of the calorimeters.  The project is to develop, prototype, test and install baseplanes of an advanced electronics crate that will route the electronic signals.  The challenges to be met are high signal density and a requirement for very high fidelity transmission of analogue signals.

Project Title:  Theoretical study of the geometry-dependence of flux noise in SQUIDS
Supervisor:  Dr. Rogerio de Sousa, Associate Professor
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) are among the most sensitive detectors of magnetic fields, and a major building block for quantum computer architectures based on superconducting materials.  Currently the best SQUID-based qubits have a coherence time of the order of 10 microseconds, which is about 10 times lower than the desired quantum error correction threshold.  The origin of this reduced coherence time is intrinsic flux noise from the materials that form the SQUID, most likely due to the fluctuation of spins located at the metal-oxide and substrate interfaces [1,2].  Recently, we developed a theory of flux noise due to the spin diffusion that occurs in the presence of the interaction between spins [3].  The theory presents an explicit expression for the dependence of the noise spectral density on the SQUID wire shape. In this project, the student will write a computer program that computes the flux noise explicitly, and will study the dependence of the noise on different wire dimensions and shapes.  The final result will be a qualitative and quantitative understanding on how SQUID flux noise depends on SQUID geometry.
[1] R.H. Koch, D.P. DiVincenzo, and J. Clarke, Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 267003 (2007).
[2] R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 76, 245306 (2007).
[3] T. Lanting, M.H. Amin, A.J. Berkley, C. Rich, S.-F. Chen, S. LaForest, and R. de Sousa, Phys. Rev. B 89, 014503 (2014).

 Project Title:  Electronic development for the ATLAS LAr calorimeter upgrade
Supervisor:  Dr. Richard Keeler, Professor
Electronics will be developed to upgrade the readout of the ATLAS liquid argon calorimeter system.  The upgrade will significantly increase the capacity of the ATLAS experiment to select or trigger on events that contain the higgs particle and the electro-weak bosons.  It does this by increasing the granularity and improving the resolution of the signals that will be sent from the calorimeters to the ATLAS trigger system.  The trigger system is also being upgraded to make use of these improved signals.  The upgrade is essential to cope with the luminosity of the LHC collider as it increases beyond the original design specifications.  The higher luminosity will significantly increase the sensitivity to new physics. 
The student will design test equipment to verify prototype electronics meet the specifications needed by the ATLAS experiment.  The work will include developing spice models and bread-boarding circuits.  Electronic tests of prototype electronics will include measurements of the cross talk and pulse shape fidelity.

Project Title:  (Super) Computing the Universe: Tracing the Formation and Evolution of Cosmic Structure
Supervisor:  Dr. Arif Babul, Professor
At present, the most important problem in the area of physical cosmology is to understand how galaxies as well as groups and clusters of galaxies emerge and how they acquire their observed properties - in other words, what physical processes shape their evolution.  This is key to not only making sense of all sorts of observations probing the universe over the past 10 billion years, but also to understand how structures at one epoch relate to structures at another, and how different components of the universe - dark matter, gas and stars - interact. 
Dr. Babul’s research group is carrying out state-of-the-art numerical "holistic" simulations of the formation and evolution of cosmic structure to address the above issues.  The goal is not just to understand this or that aspect but to develop a self-consistent model that can explain a wide range of observations in the X-ray, optical, infra-red, sub-mm, etc.  This is what is meant by "holistic".  We are aiming to get the whole system right.
This project will involve analysis of different suites of numerical simulations and semi-analytic models of cosmological structure formation to assess the properties of structures formed therein, and compare the results to observations.

Project Title:  Hydrodynamics, quantum anomalies, and gravitation
Supervisor:  Dr. Pavel Kovtun, Associate Professor
The main objective is to understand real-time dynamics in strongly interacting quantum systems, such as the quark-gluton plasma, or quantum critical phases.  The hydrodynamic description is a powerful universal language, while the gauge-gravity correspondence provides a set of exactly tractable models against which the hydrodynamic predictions can be tested.
The role of the student will be to help with numerical calculations of gravitational dynamics in anti de Sitter space, and in relating the gravitational dynamics to the collective behaviour in many-body quantum systems.

 Project Title:  Study of the Higgs boson properties using the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider
Supervisor:  Michel Lefebvre, Professor
The Higgs decay to W+ W- is a highly sensitive channel for measurement of the properties of the recently-discovered Higgs boson at the LHC.  Measurement of the CP content – including the possibility of small CP-violating phases, and the bearing this might have on the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the Universe – in Higgs decays will require detailed analysis of Higgs to W+ W- angular properties.  This project consists in the study of Higgs decay to W+ W- using data collected by the ATLAS experiment and using simulated events, with a view to extract properties of the Higgs boson, such as its spin and parity.  The student will spend two months at UVic and two months at CERN to gain critical experience in ATLAS data analysis, to become a member of the analysis team at ATLAS, and to be a part of the exciting ATLAS and CERN environments.  The student will be supervised at UVic by Prof. Michel Lefebvre, and at CERN by a postdoctoral fellow expert in the Higgs to W+ W- team at ATLAS.  The student will analyze ATLAS data and simulated events using computer software.  This involves learning about proton-proton collisions at the LHC, the Higgs boson and its signatures, and the relevant C++ ATLAS software.  The student will also be required to develop part of the analysis-specific software, and to report on findings to our UVic ATLAS group.

 
Project Title: Improving the ATLAS trigger for the 14 teV LHC run
Supervisor:  Dr. Robert Kowalewski, Professor
The CERN Large Hadron Collider is being prepared for a run at higher energy (8 -> 14 TeV) and higher intensity than previously achieved.  We can only afford to store ~1/1000,000 of the data produced by the collider, so the ATLAS trigger must reject the vast majority of the uninteresting collisions and preserve the ability to search for new particles and interactions, refine measurements of the Higgs boson and collect data that is crucial to quantifying detector performance and understanding experimental backgrounds.  The University of Victoria has been involved in the ATLAS high level trigger since 2007, and is one of the lead groups in the selection of events with an imbalance in the observed transverse momentum.  This imbalance is the signature for particles that escape direct detections, such as neutrinos or, perhaps, particles predicted in theories of SuperSymmetry or Dark Matter.  Further refinement of the current selection algorithms, in particular to deal with a sharply increased number of simultaneous proton-proton collisions in the next LHC run, is needed to preserve the ability to select these interesting events.  During the May-August period, different approaches to improving the selectivity of the missing transverse energy trigger will be compared.  The robustness and speed of the algorithms employed will also be evaluated and optimized.  The final decision for the 2015 trigger configurations will need to be made in the Fall, 2014.  The student will work in a team of a Professor and two postdoctoral researchers to develop and evaluate trigger algorithms on simulated data and on data recorded in the 2012 ATLAS run.  The student will also participate in weekly meetings with collaborators at CERN, the U.S. and Europe, and will be expected to present updates on the status of the UVic work in this forum.

Project Title: ALTAIR observations and data analysis
Supervisor: Dr. Justin Albert, Associate Professor
The ALTAIR (Airborne Laser for Telescopic Atmosphere Interference Reduction) project is a North American international collaboration which provides a precision [0(0.1% uncertainty] photometric reference calibration for astronomical observatories using high-altitude weather balloon flights at altitudes of approximately 20 km with payloads containing in-situ-calibrated light sources, primarily in order to eliminate the largest uncertainty on measurements of dark energy using type Ia supernovae. ALTAIR has flown 11 test flights so far and is now transitioning from testing to an operational phase. This summer, we will be performing flights in New Hampshire and in Arizona over Mt. Hopkins (and possibly in Hawaii over the Pan-STARRS Observatory). The student will assist in both the operations and data analysis of the ALTAIR flights this summer. Additionally, the student will assist with the testing of components for future ALTAIR flights, such as new integrating spheres and light sources.

Project Title: Optical and Radio Communication for the ALTAIR Project
Supervisor: Dr. Justin Albert, Associate Professor
The ALTAIR project provides precision photometric reference calibration for astronomical observatories via flights of calibrated light sources on small high-altitude balloon payloads. Bidirectional radio communication (at approximately 1 kb/s) between ground stations and the payload is maintained via 1 watt transceivers operating in the licence-free 910 MHz ISM band. The operating range limitation of this communication is approximately 60 km. Occasionally communication will be lost, either intermittently or catastrophically, the latter of which could cause the loss of payloads. Backup transmission is thus essential, and additionally it would be extremely beneficial to increase the range limitation (as the operating altitude of the payloads is already 20 km, and it would be useful to be able to communicate out to the horizon). Two of the candidate bands for backup communication are the 2 meter amateur radio band (at 145 MHz), and optical communication (using visible laser light). The USRA student will construct and compare these two potential modes of backup communication.