Summer Student Research 2023

1 Sep 2023

The School of Physics had a total of 14 summer students who got involved with our research groups. Lets see what they worked on....

Macroscopic Quantum Matter - Professor Seamus Davis

-Jenny Davern (3rd year) was working on our superconductivity research. Specifically on the development of the cryogenics of the scanning tunneling microscopes AQUILON and DIDYMA and learning to scan the surface of NbSe2.

-Paddy O'Callaghan (3rd year) was working on our monopole research. Using SQUID Spectrometry to investigate magnetic monopole spin dynamics of DTO and HTO.

-Thomas O'Malley (2nd year) was working on the development of a new magnetic monopole scanning microscope and of the vibrational isolation required. This first of its kind.

Laserspectroscopy Group - Professor Andy Ruth

-Barry O'Donovan (2nd year) worked on the development of a bearing-free fan for the atmospheric simulation chamber (IASC). The fan uses a brushless Bedini motor, which is based a disc with permanent magnets of the same polarity rotating over a double coil. The current induced in one of the coils switches a transistor which allows current to flow through the second coil. This creates a magnetic field of the same polarity as the permanent magnets and drives the rotating disk with the permanent magnets forward. The motor is hence not based on the Lorentz force but the repelling force of two magnetic fields of the same polarity. The axis of the fan was also held by permanent magnets which had to be brought into a stable equilibrium.

Quantum Control via Shortcuts to Adiabaticity - Dr. Andreas Ruschhaupt

-Adam Luddy (2nd year) did a 9 weeks summer research project and Joe Cowhig (3rd year) did a short 4 weeks research project.
They were both working on "Quantum Control via Enhanced Shortcuts to Adiabaticity". The formalism of "Enhances Shortcuts to Adiabaticity" is a recent development based and extending the techniques of Shortcuts to Adiabaticity. Their task was first to get into the techniques of shortcuts to adiabaticity and especially enhanced shortcuts to adiabaticity. Then, their task was to apply this formalism to a two-level quantum system and study different aspects.

In addition, Brian Long (4th year) also did a short 4 weeks research project which was a continuation of his final year project. In this research project, he was looking at aspects of shortcuts to adiabaticity and machine learning.

Astrophysics - Dr. Michael Tremmel

-Emily Whitaker (3rd year) worked on understanding the growth and merger histories of massive black holes in the Romulus simulations. She found that experiencing more mergers earlier in the Universe typically results in black holes growing more by the present day, while those that experienced very few or no mergers grew less on average. The timing of the mergers, rather than their overall number, determines the amount of ex vs. in-situ growth a black hole experiences through its lifetime. Emily found that black hole mergers seemed to be associated with an increase in black hole growth rates, often resulting in initially under-massive black holes growing onto typical scaling relations for their galaxies.
* Emily's work was awarded by SEFS

-Ben Sheehan (3rd year) worked on using the Romulus simulations to characterize the overall mass budget of wandering black holes, massive black holes that exist away from the centers of galaxies. He found that a significant fraction of early black hole growth detectable by current telescopes is occurring for black holes that will one day become wandering. Overall, these off-center black holes contribute about 10% of the overall accreted mass budget of the Universe, including a significant amount of early, luminous growth that we detect. 

-Matylda Supernak (3rd year) on an unpaid internship for Summer and worked on using the RomulusC simulation of a galaxy cluster to examine the origins of wandering black holes in cluster environments. She found that these black holes, which exist far from the central galaxy with no clear host of their own, come from a variety of galaxies (masses ranging from 10^7 to 10^10 solar masses) typically falling into the cluster at early times (1-3 Gyr after the big bang) after which they become tidally disrupted. She made some preliminary predictions for the resulting ultra-compact dwarf galaxies that may still exist around these black holes, but are unresolved by the simulation. 

Astrophysics - Professor Paul Callanan 

-Raphael Prades (3rd year) summer work was mainly centred around the study of binary star systems. These are systems where two stars orbit around each other in the sky. In particular I was focused on studying the binary star system called BG Geminorum located in the constellation of Gemini. This is an eclipsing binary star system containing a K0 secondary star and a as of yet undetermined primary star. Possible candidates include either a B-type star or a black hole. The majority work then consisted of using recent observational data of the star system provided by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) located in California. The light curve of the system was analysed and compared with previous observations and literature. Code known as Eclipsing Light Curve (ELC) code was also used to model the system with an accretion disk surrounding the primary star to try and emulate the observed data from ZTF. The main objective of this work was to confirm and possibly further constrain parameters of this system such as orbital period, masses and orbital inclination.

-Ella Flynn (3rd year) although not formally part of the summer student programme, Ella also worked with Professor Paul Callanan over the summer and the aim for their project was to pick out an all sky monitor to photograph Ireland’s dark sky reserve. This project was in conjunction with Met Eireann and the monitor is going to be placed at one of their stations in Kerry. I researched different monitors, compared their different features and chose the most suitable, taking into account cost and convenience of use. Once I had done this, I looked into different imaging softwares to process and stack the images from the monitor, as well as eliminating the distortion on the images that would result from the fish eye lens on the camera.

Non-Linear Photonics and Dynamics - Dr. Bryan Kelleher 

Sean O’Donoghue (3rd year) summer project considered the use of quantum dot lasers for optical computing. The aim was to use an optically injected dual state quantum dot laser as a Coherent Ising Machine. An Ising Machine is a hardware implementation of a non-Von Neumann computer that specialises in solving combinatorial optimisation problems. It is based on the Ising model of ferromagnetism, in which atoms are treated as quantities that can take on two spin values: +1 (spin up) and -1 (spin down). In the Ising model these individual spins elements are coupled together and different patterns of spins give different energies. The tendency of a system to move to the lowest energy then corresponds to the alignment of the spins and the phenomenon of ferromagnetism. By considering different couplings one can also model antiferromagnetism. Recent work on optically injected dual state quantum dot lasers unveiled a bistability in which the excited state of the laser can be on or off depending on initial conditions. By treating these two states as different spins, an Ising Machine can be designed that could greatly improve computational efficiency with a laser system doing much of the computationally hard work.

Professor Alix McCollam

The School of Physics is working towards Institute of Physics (IOP) and Athena Swan (Athena Swan Ireland | Advance HE ( awards for gender equality and wider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practice. The IOP recently discontinued its Project Juno scheme for gender equality (Project Juno | Institute of Physics ( and is developing a New Inclusion Model (A new inclusion model for the physics community | Institute of Physics ( that will consider the broader range of challenges now facing the physics community within higher education. 

Eibhlín Kiely (3rd year) worked on a summer project to help prepare the School for participation in the IOP pilot of the New Inclusion Model in 2023/2024. Eibhlín focussed particularly on looking into the criteria for the New Inclusion Model award, and identifying practical and realistic ways in which the School can work towards satisfying these criteria. She also studied published research and information on EDI practices in physics and higher education more generally, to understand the benefits of awareness and specific types of training in tackling the EDI challenges faced by physics departments.  Eibhlín worked closely with Sarah Sweeney, the Chair of EPONA for 2022/2023, and together they have come up with a clear outline of the areas in which positive actions can be taken to help the School of Physics achieve success in our aim to be an EDI champion. Congratulations and thanks to both Eibhlín and Sarah for their hard work and the great progress they made during the summer on this important project. 

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