Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics
Summer 2018 job posting
Job number TR18-2-24

Position Title:

Summer undergraduate research in dark matter detection theory and detection. 

Name of Project:

Evaluating the dark matter neutrino floor 


Measurements of the universe over galactic and larger distances indicate that there exists much more matter than can be accounted for with the known forms of matter. This missing matter is called dark matter (DM). Very little is known about the nature of the DM, and many experiments are trying to discover and measure it directly in the laboratory. The most sensitive searches for DM particles with masses above 1 GeV/c^2 look for the scattering of DM off target nuclei in deep underground detectors. Current experiments are only limited by the sensitivity of their detectors and the extent to which they can control background radioactivity. However, planned future detectors using xenon or argon targets are expected to become sensitive to the scattering of neutrinos created in the sun. This scattering creates a nearly irreducible background for DM searches that will severely limit the experimental sensitivity to DM-nucleon cross sections, and is sometimes called the "neutrino floor".

The goal of this project is to evaluate the precise location of the neutrino floor for different detector materials and galactic dark matter distributions. Existing calculations have only studied spin-independent scattering on xenon, and have mostly assumed a minimal local distribution of dark matter. In this project these calculations will be extended to argon detectors and more complicated local dark matter distributions. The results of this project will help to inform the design of future large-scale argon DM detectors, which will build upon the current DEAP-3600 experiment in which TRIUMF plays a key role.

Supervision for the project will be shared by David Morrissey (particle theorist) and Pietro Giampa (dark matter detection experimentalist).


The student will calculate DM and neutrino cross sections on different target nuclei. Using these cross sections, the student will evaluate the sensitivity of current and future DM detection experiments to DM scattering relative to neutrino scattering for various local dark matter density and velocity distributions. This will allow the student to determine the maximal sensitivity of these future experiments to DM-nucleon cross sections.

Skills learned during this work experience:

The student will learn about the physics of dark matter (DM), including the evidence for DM, the role of DM in galaxy formation, and the (non-gravity) interactions of DM with regular matter. With this background, the student will go on to study the experimental detection of DM, including aspects of detection methods, data analysis techniques, and how to calculate the experimental event rates in various theories of DM. The student will also learn about neutrino production in the sun, how to calculate neutrino-nucleus scattering rates, and leading theories of dark matter.


Potential applicants must have course experience in classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics at the level of an honours physics B.Sc program. Some experience with statistics and programming (or mathematica or similar) would be helpful as well.

Shiftwork required:


Period of work:

May - Aug 2018  
Salary is commensurate with academic progress and previous relevant work experience, and ranges from $ 2080 to $ 2800 per month plus 4% vacation pay.
TRIUMF pays round-trip airfare (this does not apply to Vancouver/Victoria students); for Vancouver Island students, TRIUMF will pay ferry costs.

TRIUMF is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in the workplace, and we welcome applications from all qualified undergraduate students as defined below:

  • Canadian undergraduate students or Canadian Permanent Resident undergraduate students enrolled in an accredited post secondary institution in Canada (or outside Canada) who are studying in a vocational or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate.
  • Foreign full-time undergraduate students currently enrolled at a designated learning institution at the post-secondary level, and who are studying in an academic, vocational or professional training program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate that is at least six months in duration, and who have a valid Canadian study permit which allows for employment off-campus, and who have applied for a Social Insurance Number
  • Foreign undergraduate students enrolled in a recognized undergraduate program of study abroad who have accepted, or are in the process of accepting, an "Invitation to Apply" for a work permit under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program

Applications must be received at TRIUMF by 4:00pm Pacific time on 2018-01-22.

One complete PDF for EACH position must be submitted. Please save the PDF as lastname-job number (eg Smith-15.pdf)

Email to:

Mail to:

TRIUMF Student Program
Job Number TR18-2-24
4004 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 2A3

No phone calls please. TRIUMF wishes to thank all applicants for their interest, and regrets that only those being considered will be contacted.

TRIUMF is located on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
For more information, visit our web site