Internship Application Form 2017

Aimed at Honours and beginning Masters students

For mid June tot mid July and mid November to mid December periods

Please complete this on-line application form.


  • Topics for Internships

    Introduction to NITheP Internships and general information

    2017 05 26

    The call for Internship applications for 2017 June/July Internships and November/December 2017 internships is now open.

    The deadline for applications to be submitted is Wednesday 31 May 2017.

    For any questions or queries with regards to Internships, please contact Rene Kotze at

    The periods for internships are generally:

    - mid June to mid July each year
    - mid November to mid December each year

    This would typically be a three week period during the University recess aimed at:

    - Honours students
    - Beginning Masters students
    - Students are to be registered at a South African Institute at the time of applying for the internship
    - Preference given to South African citizens

    Please also note that internships at the home University of the student is to be avoided, and applications for students to visit other Universities will be given preference.

    *** Students are requested not to make direct contact with the Supervisors, until the process has been handled centrally by NITheP, which will then do the introduction between the parties after all applicants have been screened.

    Topic 1 Supervisor: Prof FG Scholtz (NITheP Stellenbosch)

    TITLE: Geometric Phases in Quantum Mechanics

    ABSTRACT: This project will study the origin and physical consequences of geometric phases in quantum mechanics, starting with the Aharonov-Bohm effect and its implications in terms of charge quantization in the presence of magnetic monopoles. This will be followed by a general study of Berry phases and their physical consequences.

    Topic 2 Supervisor: Prof FG Scholtz (NITheP Stellenbosch)

    TITLE: Instantons

    ABSTRACT: This project will focus on the role of instantons in the non perturbative computation of tunneling amplitudes in a path integral setting. The starting point will be the simple double well potential in one dimensional quantum mechanics and will include the study of the instanton solution to the equation of motion, fluctuations around this solution and the role of zero modes. Depending on the student?s background this may be continued to more advanced quantum field theory settings.

    Topic 3 Supervisor Prof Azwinndini Muronga (NMMU)

    TITLE: Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics

    ABSTRACT: The aim of the projects in this subject is to introduce students to particle physics, nuclear physics of dense matter and astrophysics.
    These three are connected by Einstein's theory of General Relativity.
    Students will discuss the physics of matter that is relevant to the structure, processes and dynamics of compact stars. This include the physics of nuclear matter, neutron star matter, quark matter, quark star matter, and the phase transition between them. Students will also study the transport process and the dynamics of the compact stars.

    Topic 4 Supervisor: Prof Azwinndini Muronga (NMMU)

    TITLE: Statistical and Thermal Physics of Hot and Dense Nuclear and Astrophysical Matter

    ABSTRACT: The aim of the projects in this subject is to introduce students to the applications of thermal and statistical physics to nuclear matter, quark matter, neutron stars, quark stars and dynamical processes in these systems. Systems of particular importance will be high-energy heavy ion collisions, high baryon density matter, high-energy astrophysical processes, compact stars, and cosmology.

    Topic 5 Supervisor: Prof Alan S. Cornell (NITheP WITS)

    TITLE Effective field theory study of B meson decays

    ABSTRACT: This project shall introduce the student to the study of semi-leptonic flavor changing neutral current B meson decays, together with the physics and phenomenology behind the study of B physics. This investigation will utilise an effective field theory approach, taking both the heavy quark limit and the large energy limit.

    Topic 6 Supervisor: Prof Herbert Weigel (SU)

    TITLE: Potential Scattering from Relativistic Wave-Equations

    ABSTRACT: Static background potentials can systematically be incorporated in relativistic wave-equations like the Klein-Gordon and/or Dirac equations.
    Techniques will be applied that reduce those problems to something similar to its non-relativistic analog, the Schrodinger equation for potential scattering.
    Also the analytic structure (with respect to complex momentum) of the scattering data will be investigated.

    Topic 7 Supervisor: Prof Robert de Mello Koch (WITS)

    TITLE: The Quantum Mechanics of the Lowest Landau Level

    ABSTRACT: In this project, the dynamics of electrons in the lowest Landau level is studied. First, a very pedestrian approach is used to motivate the correct form of the position operators. This is done by enforcing the condition that these operators map the lowest Landau level into itself.
    These results are then reproduced using Dirac's constrained quantization.

    Topic 8 Supervisor: Prof Daniel Joubert (WITS)

    TITLE: Introduction to Density Functional Theory

    ABSTRACT: Density functional theory is a reformulation of the multi-variate wavefunction description of quantum mechanincs to a description where the the groundstate probability density of the particles, a function of three variables, is the governing quantity. It offers an elegant approach to finding some groundstate properties of an interacting system of particles. In the Kohn-Sham formalism of DFT the interacting system is mapped onto a fictitious system of non-interacting particles with the same density as the interacting system and calculations are done for the fictitious non-interacting system, a computationally relatively simple system. The formalism is valid for statistical mixtures and therefore applicable to systems with fractional particle numbers, so-called ensemble density functional theory.

    In this project the discontinuity in the first functional derivative of the universal energy functional as a function of particle number at integer particle numbers will be investigated for an analytic model.

    Topic 9 Supervisor: Prof Azwinndini Muronga (NMMU)

    TITLE: Ultra-Relativistic Quantum Molecular Dynamics for Nucleus-Nucleus Collisions

    ABSTRACT: Relativistic heavy-ion collisions such as those at the RHIC and LHC proceed through several different phases, each of which requires a different dynamical approach. Beginning-to-end must, therefore, interface several physics components. During the earliest phase, quarks and gluons (collectively called partons) are liberated from the colliding nuclei and reassemble into a rapidly equilibrating matter, thereby creating most of the entropy produced in the collision. Realistic models of this phase, such as the Color Glass Condensate theory of gluon saturation provide the framework to generate the initial conditions for the subsequent fluid dynamic evolution. After achieving partial thermalization, the evolution of the matter can be described by models based on dissipative relativistic fluid dynamics, controlled by phenomenological transport coefficients and an equation of state. During the fluid dynamical stage the matter develops most of the finally observed collective flow, which therefore reflects the equation of state and transport coefficients of the dense partonic matter. The microscopic dynamics of this non-ideal fluid can alternatively be modeled with a covariant partonic Boltzmann transport equation. The comparison between the non-ideal fluid dynamics and microscopic transport models, with standardized initial conditions will yield valuable theoretical constraints on the equation of state and transport coefficients. During the fluid dynamic evolution the system will cool and eventually undergo phase transition to a gas of hadrons. The final phases of evolution involve the formation, expansion, and final decoupling of the hadronic gas. After hadronization, the dissipative fluid dynamical evolution must be replaced with a microscopic description of the final hadronic rescattering and decoupling processes, using known or well-constrained hadronic properties and cross sections. Finally, the hadrons freezes out and the resulting particles are detected by the detectors.

    The Ultra-relativistic Quantum Molecular Dynamics Model (UrQMD) will be used to study the final
    hadronic scattering state.

    The student will
    (i) perform simulations using UrQMD to generate the phase-space of the final hadrons
    (ii) analyze the observables such as particle multiplicity

    The student should read the following article
    For details about UrQMD model see

    Topic 10 Supervisor: Prof Azwinndini Muronga (NMMU)

    TITLE: Relativistic Fluid Dynamics for Nucleus-Nucleus Collisions

    ABSTRACT: Modeling the dynamic evolution of nuclear collisions in terms of fluid dynamics has long-standing tradition in heavy ion physics. One of the main reasons is that one essentially does not require more information to solve the equations of motion of ideal fluid dynamics. One only needs the equilibrium equation of state of matter under consideration. Once the equation of state is known and the initial conditions are specified, the equations of motion uniquely determine the dynamics of the collisions. Knowledge about the microscopic reaction processes is not required.

    In this project a student will

    (i) review the basic concepts and notions of relativistic fluid dynamics as applied to the physics of heavy-ion collisions.
    (ii) perform simulations using existing code to study the space-time evolution of the heavy ion collisions.

    Topic 11 Supervisor: Prof Andre Peshier (UCT)

    TITLE: SU(Nc)-quasiparticle thermodynamics

    ABSTRACT: QCD quasiparticle models have proven to be an appropriate framework to understand quantitatively thermodynamic properties of the strongly coupled quark-gluon plasma, which is the state of hadronic matter at high temperatures and/or densities. An objective of the project is to use an existing approach, developed and tested for the case of Nc=3 colors, to analyze recent numerical results from lattice QCD for various numbers Nc. This will allow us to consider the large-Nc limit and to relate to ongoing efforts to understand the system in terms of AdS/CFT.

    Topic 12 Supervisor: Dr Amanda Weltman (UCT)

    TITLE: 1+3 covariant formulation of the Weyl Tensor Trace Free Equations

    ABSTRACT: In this project we will explore the possibility that the Weyl tensor is the true gravitational degree of freedom. We will proceed using the 1+3 covariant formalism. The student would need to know basic general relativity and would learn about Trace Free gravity and the ADM formalism.

    [1] G F R Ellis (1971) “Relativistic Cosmology”. In General Relativity and Cosmology,
    Proc Int School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” (Varenna), Course XLVII. Ed. R K Sachs
    (Academic Press, 1971), 104-179. Reprinted as Golden Oldie:: Gen. Rel. Grav. 41, no
    3, 581 (2009) ]
    [2] George F. R. Ellis, Henk van Elst, Jeff Murugan, Jean-Philippe Uzan (2010) “On
    the Trace-Free Einstein Equations as a Viable Alternative to General Relativity”
    [3] G F R Ellis and M Bruni (1989): “A covariant and gauge-free approach to density
    fluctuations in cosmology”. Phys Rev D40, 1804-1818.
    [4] George F. R. Ellis, Rituparno Goswami (2012) Space time and the passage of time
    For Springer Handbook of Spacetime; arXiv:1208.2611.
    [5] C. Lanczos, Anns. Math. 39 (1938) 842
    [6] Roy Maartens, Bruce A. Bassett (1998) “Gravito-electromagnetism”
    Class.Quant.Grav.15:705 [arXiv:gr-qc/9704059]
    [7] Gerard ’t Hooft (2010) “Probing the small distance structure of canonical quantum
    gravity using the conformal group” arXiv:10009.0669v2

    Topic 13 Supervisor: Dr Amanda Weltman (UCT)

    TITLE: Stellar and galactic tests of chameleon fields.

    ABSTRACT: From all our observations to date, the Universe appears to be dominated by the dark sector - about 22% of the total energy in the Universe is Dark Matter, the clumpy stuff that holds galaxies together while the majority (73%) is Dark energy, the least well understood cosmological component that drives the accelerated
    expansion of the Universe today. Dark energy theories are notoriously difficult to test. In this project we will explore testing a particular dark energy theory - so called chameleon models - using astrophysical sources. The student would need to know basic GR and cosmology and would learn more about dark energy, dark energy models and astrophysics.

    Useful references include,,

    Topic 14 Supervisor: Prof Roy Maartens (UWC)

    TITLE: Interactions in the dark sector of the universe

    ABSTRACT: The Universe is dominated by the dark sector - Dark Matter (DM) holds the galaxies together, while Dark Energy (DE) drives the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. Two of the biggest challenges in modern cosmology are to understand the properties of DM and DE and how they affect the evolution of the Universe. In this project, we will consider the possibility that DM and DE are not independent, as in the standard models, but interact with each other. Such an interaction leads to interesting new behaviour, and the idea can be tested against observations. The project will focus on setting up and solving (analytical and numerical) the equations that govern the evolution of the Universe for various models of interaction.

    Topic 15 Supervisor: Dr Kevin Goldstein (WITS) (aimed at Hons level student)

    TITLE: Conformal techniques in 2D Electrodynamics and Fluid Dynamics.

    ABSTRACT: The student will learn novel techniques for solving 2D classical problems as well as becoming familiar with the Conformal group which plays and important role in Quantum field theory and String theory. Some knowledge of Complex Analysis and Electrodynamics is required.

    Topic 16 Supervisor: Prof Francesco Petruccione, co-supervisor Dr Ilya Sinayskiy (UKZN)

    TITLE: Introduction to Quantum Computing

    ABSTRACT: The aim of this project is to understand the basic principles of quantum computing and quantum algorithms. The candidate will study gate models of quantum
    computing. On the algorithmic side the candidate will learn about Deutsch?Jozsa, Grover?s and Shor?s algorithm. The project involves a simulation part in which a factorization on a quantum computer will be emulated.

    Topic 17 Supervisor: Prof Francesco Petruccione, co-supervisor Dr Ilya Sinayskiy (UKZN)

    TITLE: Dissipative dynamics of a qubit under external driving.

    ABSTRACT: In describing real physical systems one should always take into
    account the influence of the surroundings. The study of open systems is particularly important for understanding processes in quantum physics.

    In this project we plan to study the dynamics of a qubit (building block of quantum information) interacting with an external magnetic field and a dissipative environment. The interaction with the heat bath will be treated as weak and we will use the Born-Markov approximation, which is perfectly justified for many situations in quantum optics. We will consider two cases of external driving. In the first case we will assume that the qubit interacts with the precessing magnetic field. In the second case we will consider periodic constant magnetic field. We will be interested in the dynamics of the coherence and occupation probability in the qubit subsystem.

    Topic 18 Supervisor: Prof Vishnu Jejjala (WITS)

    TITLE: Kaluza-Klein theory

    ABSTRACT: Fundamental particles interact via the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravitation. The first three forces are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. String theory is the leading candidate for unifying all of the fundamental forces within a consistent framework. As a toy model for quantum gravity, we shall explore the unification of gravitation with electromagnetism.

    In addition to time and the familiar three dimensions of space, Kaluza-Klein theory extends general relativity to a fifth dimension, which is a circle. In this project, we will demonstrate that variation of the five dimensional action yields Einstein's equations for gravity in four dimensions together with Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism. In addition, there is now an extra scalar corresponding to the size of the extra dimension that explains how gravity couples to electromagnetism. We shall investigate the spectrum of solutions to the wave equation in the Kaluza-Klein setup. Finally, we will explore the geometry of Kaluza-Klein theory and examine its possible generalizations.

    Topic 19 Supervisor: Prof Azwinndini Muronga (NMMU)

    TITLE: Neutron Transport Theory

    ABSTRACT: In nuclear reactor theory one needs to understand the motion of neutrons in the reactor as they move about in the reactor core as they scatter off nuclei and eventually being absorbed or leak out of the reactor. In this project students will treat the motion of the neutrons as a diffusion process where the neutrons diffuse from regions of high neutron density to low neutron density. The students will be required to derive the neutron transport equation and hence the neutron diffusion equation.

    Topic 20 Supervisor Dr Giuseppe Pellicane (UKZN)

    TITLE: Gibbs ensemble Monte Carlo of nonadditive hard-disk mixtures

    ABSTRACT: This project will focus on the development of an efficient Monte Carlo code for simulating
    fluid phase coexistence, with no energetic bias determined by the presence of the interface,
    in 2D models of colloidal particles. The goal is to initially test the code against data available in the literature
    only for symmetrical hard-disks (i.e. hard disks of same diameter), and subsequently produce new data for
    the asymmetrical case. The new data will provide a benchmark for the predictions of integral equation theories
    of the liquid state.

    Topic 21 Supervisor: Prof Bruce Mellado and Prof Alan Cornell (WITS)

    TITLE: Higgs phenomenology at ep and e+e- colliders

    ABSTRACT: Given the recent successful discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the LHC last year, the study of the Higgs particle's phenomenology is an extremely topical subject at the moment. In this project the intern would simulate the production and decay of a Higgs particle in other possible collider environments, such as a high energy ep collider (like the proposed LHeC) or an e+e- collider. This project would also be under the supervision of Prof Mellado and Prof Cornell, where recent papers on this subject include:
    [1] e-Print: arXiv:1301.4965 [hep-ph] (
    [2] Phys.Rev.Lett. 109 (2012) 261801 (
    [3] J.Phys. G39 (2012) 075001 (
    [4] Phys.Rev. D82 (2010) 016009 (

    Topic 22 Supervisor Dr W A Horowitz (UCT)

    TITLE: Energy Loss in Perturbative Quantum Field Theories

    ABSTRACT: Derive formulae for the collisional and radiative energy lost by relativistic particles propagating through weakly-coupled plasmas in perturbative quantum field theories. Requires knowledge of the usual Feynman diagram techniques in QFT.

    Topic 23 Supervisor Dr W A Horowitz (UCT)

    TITLE: Phenomenological String Theory

    ABSTRACT: Apply the methods of the anti-de-Sitter/conformal field theory correspondence to compute formulae for the energy lost by relativistic particles propagating through a strongly-coupled plasma. Use string theoretic techniques in 5 dimensions to gain insight into the physics of strongly-coupled field theories in 4 dimensions. Requires knowledge of the methods of differential geometry/general relativity.

    Topic 24 Supervisor Dr H Cynthia Chiang (UKZN)

    TITLE: Searching for the echoes of Inflation

    ABSTRACT: Inflation is a cornerstone of the modern cosmological paradigm, and one of the greatest challenges is searching for robust observational signatures. One of the most exciting experimental probes is the polarisation of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), which encodes the ripples of gravitational waves generated by Inflationary expansion. After over a decade of experimental searches, this gravitational wave signature was recently detected for the first time by the BICEP2 experiment. This groundbreaking result has opened our first observational window into Inflationary energy scales associated with Grand Unification, which are orders of magnitude beyond the energy accessible to particle accelerators.

    This project will address the continued exploration of Inflationary physics with data from SPIDER, an experiment that will measure CMB polarisation with unprecedented sensitivity and fidelity. There are opportunities to develop computational techniques and software for analysing SPIDER's large data volume, as well as efficiently generating simulations that accurately capture instrumental systematics and noise properties.

    Topic 25 Supervisor Dr H Cynthia Chiang (UKZN)

    TITLE: Searching for cosmic dawn from the sub-Antarctic with SCI-HI

    ABSTRACT: Observations of redshifted 21-cm emission of neutral hydrogen are a
    rapidly growing area of cosmology research. At low frequencies, radio
    observations have the potential to open a new window on cosmic dawn,
    the era when the first stars ignited in the universe. SCI-HI is an
    experiment that is designed to study cosmic dawn by observing globally
    averaged 21-cm emission in a frequency range of 50-150 MHz. The
    instrument has deployed once to Marion Island, an exceptionally
    isolated and radio-quiet location in the sub-Antarctic, and a second
    deployment is planned for April 2017. This project will involve data
    analysis from the second SCI-HI deployment, including constraints on
    various models of star formation in the universe.

    Topic 26 Supervisor Konstantinos Zoubos (UP)

    TITLE: The Ising Model: Phase transitions and the renormalisation group

    ABSTRACT: In this project, the student will learn about the 2d Ising Model, one of the most important models
    in statistical mechanics, and, using it as a concrete example, understand how renormalisation group
    techniques can be applied to compute phase transitions and the corresponding critical exponents.

    (November/December Internship period)

    Topic 27 Supervisor Konstantinos Zoubos (UP)

    TITLE: Spin Chains and Quantum Integrability

    ABSTRACT: In this project, the student will learn how to solve the 1d Heisenberg Spin Chain and other
    quantum spin chain models using Bethe Ansatz and R-matrix techniques. If time allows, the link
    to quantum algebras will be touched on, as well as the relevance of this system to gauge theory
    and the AdS/CFT correspondence.

    (November/December Internship period)

    Topic 28: Supervisor Prof Jeff Murugan (UCT)

    TITLE: Knots of light

    ABSTRACT: Maxwell electrodynamics is famously a linear theory whose solutions we thought we've known since Maxwell himself. Recently however, a new set of topologically nontrivial solutions were found to the vacuum Maxwell equations that correspond to knotted and linked electromagnetic field lines. This remarkable development of classical electrodynamics brings together a number of branches of mathematics and physics including (but not limited to) classical solutions of the Maxwell equations, conformal transformations, the theory of quaternions and knot theory. In this project, you will study this new development and understand how to extend them further.

    Topic 29: Supervisor: Prof Kristian Müller-Nedebock (SU)

    TITLE: Topology in biological systems on the mesoscopic scale

    Topic 30 Supervisor: Prof Herbert Weigel (Stellenbosch University)

    TITLE: Topological Solitons

    ABSTRACT: In field theory (classical) configurations with localized energy densities are called solitons or solitary waves. Typically their total energy (integrated density) is larger than the vacuum energy. Hence for
    these solitons to be stable there must exist a particular mechanism that prevents them from decaying into the vacuum. Here conserved charges feature important, and in particular, topological charges are central. They
    are conserved because certain boundary conditions for the soliton cannot be continuously transformed to coincide with the vacuum configuration. Thus the conservation of topological charges is not conditioned by the equations of motion and the conserved current is not a Noether current. Solitons that are stable because their decay would violate the conservation of a topological charge are called topological solitons.

    The student will study a variety of topological solitons, for example the kink and sine-Gordon model in 1+1 dimensions, the isotropic ferromagnet and the Nielsen-Olesen string in 2+1 dimensions, or the 't Hooft-Polyakov monopole and the Skyrmion in 3+1 dimensions. The identification of topological charges with particle numbers will be discussed. Some basic concepts of topology will also be covered.

    Topic 31 Supervisor: Dr Shazrene Mohamed (SAAO)

    TITLE: 3D Models of Cosmic Explosions

    A nova is a very bright, energetic explosion that occurs when the surface layer of gas accreted by a white dwarf is ignited, leading to a thermonuclear runaway. Novae occur in binary systems and the source of the accreted material is typically a close main sequence companion or a more evolved star, e.g., a red giant. Although novae have been known for hundreds of years, there are still many important unanswered questions. In this project, detailed supercomputer simulations will be used to investigate both the nova explosion and the mass transfer phase that leads up to it.

    Topic 32 Supervisor Prof Hugo Touchette (NITheP Stellenbosch)

    TITLE: Monte Carlo simulations of rare events

    This project is an introduction to the use of Monte Carlo and importance sampling methods for simulating fluctuations and rare events of Markov stochastic processes, which arise in the modeling of many noisy physical processes in statistical mechanics, chemistry and biophysics. The project should consist of 4 parts: 1- Reading period on probability theory and stochastic processes; 2- Writing of basic programs (in C, Matlab or Fortran) simulating stochastic processes; 3- Learning about and implementing importance sampling for simulating rare events; 4- Studying relevant applications in physics.

    Topic 33 Supervisor: Prof Peter Dunsby (UCT)

    TITLE: The cosmology and astrophysics of f(R) dark energy

    ABSTRACT: This project will study the cosmology and astrophysics of one of the leading alternatives to the standard description of Dark Energy. Topics include exploring the dynamics of the expansion history, the growth of large scale structure and Cosmic Microwave Anisotropies, constructing models for stars and the nature of gravitational waves in these theories. Students are required to have some background in General Relativity and basic cosmology.

    Topic 34 Supervisor Dr. Alvaro de la Cruz-Dombriz (UCT)

    TITLE: Gravitational waves in extended theories of gravity

    ABSTRACT: In the context of extended gravity theories, it has been shown that the apparent mass of neutron stars as seen from an observer at infinity is numerically calculable but requires careful matching, first at the star’s edge, between interior and exterior solutions, none of them being totally Schwarzschild-like but presenting instead in general small oscillations of the curvature scalar R ; and second at large radii, where the Newtonian potential is used to identify the mass of the neutron star. Thus, because the neutron star masses can be much larger than General Relativity counterparts, the total energy available for radiating gravitational waves could be of order several solar masses, and thus a merger of these stars constitutes an interesting wave source. This internship intends to explore a very active research field after the LIGO collaboration results and the forecast with AdvLIGO, which mey help to unveil the nature of the underlying theory of gravity using an unexplored window of data.

    Topic 35 Supervisor: Prof Denis Pollney (Rhodes University)

    TITLE: Gravitational waves from exotic matter sources

    ABSTRACT: Recent discoveries of gravitational waves from black hole binaries were a strong validation of general relativity in the strong-field limit. To fully constrain the theory, however, it is necessary to establish whether sources other than classical black holes might potentially generate analogous signals. For example, boson stars are an exotic matter source that arise in certain scalar-tensor gravity theories. They provide a dynamical strong-field probe of relativity while avoiding many of the complications (in particular shocks and
    discontinuities) that arise in other fluid models. This project would involve using a computational model to understand aspects of the gravitational wave signature of boson star interactions.

    Comments or questions?

    Should you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please feel free to discuss by contacting Rene Kotze.