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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2010


Coordinators: Professor David Jesson (Research programs) and Dr David Paganin (Postgraduate Coordinator)

The School of Physics offers world-class research opportunities for postgraduate candidates in experimental, theoretical and computational physics. Experimental research includes: condensed matter physics; coherent x-ray optics and synchrotron science; electron, atom and molecular optics; nanostructures (quantum dots/wells) based on III-V materials; electron, neutron and x-ray diffraction; thin films and surface physics; imaging sciences; PET, EPR and Mössbauer spectroscopy and advanced instrumentation and detector development. Theoretical areas include: optics, nanodynamics, particle cosmology, high temperature superconductivity, phase retrieval techniques for linear and non-linear classical and quantal systems, statistical dynamical diffraction theory, quantum gases (BECs), imaging light, and ab initio calculations using density functional theory.

The School is host to a number of prominent research centres, including the Monash Centre for Synchrotron Science, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coherent X-Ray Science and the CRC in Biomedical Imaging Development. It also plays a prominent role in the development of the Imaging and Therapy beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, which is located adjacent to the Clayton Campus of Monash University.

Research by Physics staff is conducted at numerous international synchrotron facilities (for example, SPring-8, Photon Factory, ESRF, CLS, DESY) and neutron facilities (ILL, Chalk River). Physics staff are also significant users of national facilities at ANSTO (HiFAR/OPAL). Significant instrumentation located in the School at the Clayton Campus includes a unique low energy electron microscope (LEEM) with MBE facility for growing and imaging GaAs quantum dots. Other major facilities include CT scanners, x-ray diffractometers, Mossbauer spectrometers, a FT-EPR spectrometer, thin film deposition facilities, scanning probe microscopes (STM/AFM), SEM/TEM and access to a FEG-TEM and 3D Atom Probe Field Ion Microscope. A new Electron Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility (EMMF), currently under construction adjacent to the School of Physics, will house a suite of state-of-the-art electron microscopes. The school is well supported by its own highly skilled technical staff in large and well-equipped mechanical and electronics workshops, which encompasses a commercial liquid Helium production facility, materials analysis, sample preparation and scientific imaging.

All higher degrees in Physics at Monash are conducted entirely by research, except for the Master of Science Preliminary, which comprises 50 per cent research and 50 per cent coursework. The latter involves units similar to those offered in the Physics BSc(Hons) program. Candidates entering with a BSc(Hons) are required to enrol initially in the Master of Science (MSc) program, from which they can apply to transfer to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) after one year. Applicants with a research-only MSc degree can enrol directly into the PhD program; however, they must serve a one year probationary period. Candidates work under the guidance of two assigned supervisors on an individual research project and are expected to attend school colloquia and contribute to research group seminars. Some research projects are multidisciplinary and may suit academically strong candidates from biomedicine, engineering, computing or mathematics.

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Research projects are offered in the following areas.

Astronomy and astrophysics
  • Particle cosmology
  • Galaxy evolution
  • Particle astrophysics of the galactic centre
  • Neutron star binaries
Atom optics
  • Pointing stability enhancement of a high-power pulsed laser
  • Travelling optical lattices created by electro-optic deflection
  • Design of a high-efficency helium detector for molecular beams
  • Focusing neutral molecules in two-dimensions
Condensed matter physics
  • Quantum dot self-assembly and self-organisation
  • Nanoscale semiconductor growth processes
  • Molecular beam epitaxy
  • Electron spin resonance
  • Relaxation and microstructural studies in triglycine sulphate ferroelectrics
  • Precursor and time dependent effects in association with displacive phase transitions, particularly in martensitic alloys
  • Studies of residual stresses in weldments, particularly using non-destructive diffraction (neutron and x-ray) techniques
  • Microstructural and magnetic studies of Sm-Co-based magnetic alloys transitions, particularly in martensitic alloys
  • Studies of the microstructural stability under static load of YTZ ceramics
  • Fatigue in ferroelectric thin films
  • Computational determinations of the electronic and structural properties of microstructures, including surfaces and small clusters of metals and semiconductors
  • Textured films of layered semiconductors for solar cell applications
  • Self assembled microdots for thin film fuel cell applications
  • Fabrication of novel nanotubes based upon the boron nitride - carbon system
  • Phenomenological pairing mechanisms in high-temperature superconductors
Electron diffraction and low-energy electron microscopy
  • Nanostructural evolution of semiconductor thin films
  • Physics of quantum dot formation
  • Design of a high-efficency helium detector for molecular beams
  • Focusing neutral molecules in two-dimensions
Elementary particle physics
  • Extended supersymmetric models
  • Supersymmetric dark matter
  • Supersymmetric origin of matter
  • Extra dimensional dark matter
  • Higgs discovery at the Large Hadron Collider
  • Holographic vacuum energy
  • Cosmology of the electroweak symmetry breaking
Fundamental x-ray physics
  • Uniqueness of the complex diffraction amplitude in x-ray Bragg diffraction: General formalism
  • One- and two-dimensional inverse problem in x-ray diffraction studies design of a high-efficency helium detector for molecular beams.
  • Two-dimensional crystal-lattice strain reconstruction with nanometre spatial resolution
  • High-resolution x-ray diffraction experiments using synchrotron radiation
  • Unambiguous characterisation of advanced semiconductor alloy films and multi-layer superstructures
  • Three-dimensional diffraction phenomenon at a 90-degree Bragg reflection
  • 90-degree Bragg reflection from a thin surface film
Image processing
  • Algorithms for discrete image processing
  • Limitations on traditional computed-tomography (CT) image precision
  • Three-dimensional x-ray tomography
  • Sparse-data reconstructions
  • Discrete Radon Transform (DRT) as a tool for image reconstruction and analysis
Mössbauer spectroscopy
  • Mineral processing
  • Gold extraction onto activated carbon and polyurethane foam
  • Transformation of iron minerals during processing
  • Study of coal and coal products
  • Magnetism
  • Mechanisms operating in exchange spring magnets made either as films by magnetron sputtering or as powder by ball milling
Physics education research
  • How students conceptualise physics
  • How physics is best learnt and taught
  • Gender balance and physics
  • Interactive aids for physics study
  • Enhancing the experience of physics in schools
Synchrotron science
  • x-ray imaging
  • Radiotherapy
  • Disease diagnosis
  • Detectors
Theoretical and computational physics
  • Studies on topological defects in both quantum-mechanical and classical fields
  • Geometric phases in physics
  • Inverse problems
  • Deterministic phase retrieval
  • Non-equilibrium thermodynamics
  • Diffraction theory
  • Nanodynamics
  • The Hubbard model and its applications to low-dimensional quantum systems
  • Caustics and vortices in matter-wave fields
  • Computational determination of the electronic and structural properties of microstructures, including surfaces and small clusters of metals and semiconductors
  • The discrete Radon transform together with certain aspects of its intriguing connections with number theory
  • Chaotic states of Bose-Einstein condensates
  • Superconductivity
  • Fractal drums
  • Dynamics of non-linear quantum-mechanical systems
Theoretical optics
  • Phase retrieval
  • Phase-contrast imaging
  • Medical imaging
  • Computational aberration correction
  • Holography
  • Microscopy
  • Inference of non-linear differential equations of physics from field intensities
  • Medical imaging
  • Vector tomography of Doppler-transformed fields
  • X-ray lithography
  • Fresnel microscopy of magnetic materials
  • Singular optics and diffraction theory