Student Projects

(3rd-year / Honours / Masters / PhD)

See the description of my research to gain a better idea of the kind of research I do.
Click here for a List of Past Students and Example Projects done under my supervision
To inquire about possible projects, please write me a mail to arrange a meeting: peter.skands at

Most projects I offer are in the field of particle-physics phenomenology, straddling the intersection between theoretical high-energy physics, experimental particle physics, and computer physics.

I specialise in numerical modelling of high-energy particle collisions, such as those occurring at the Large Hadron Collider, with a focus on processes governed by the strong interaction (quantum chromodynamics, quarks and gluons, QCD strings and jets, and the formation and decay of hadrons in high-energy processes).

The research contributes to the world-leading PYTHIA Monte Carlo Event Generator, with Monash spearheading developments of sophisticated models for QCD bremsstrahlung resummations ("antenna showers") and exploring new ideas in string hadronisation.

Books and Study Resources

The following is a non-exhaustive collection of various course books and/or self-study material, that I recommend for students (and researchers) on topics ranging from basic particle physics and quantum field theory to the more specialized/advanced topics of QCD, Monte Carlo event generators, and high-energy phenomenology relevant to the Large Hadron Collider. There are also links to resources on probability and statistics and some computer codes and tutorials.

You do not need all of these. When there are several options, look at reviews (such as this one), or get copies from your library, to see which ones might suit you best. Also consider your aims: are you looking to just gain a better conceptual understanding, or do you need detailed technical calculations?

The most introductory material is at the top of the page. Scroll down for more advanced / specialized / technical topics.

General Particle Physics (3rd year and higher)

  • Text Book. Griffiths: Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics. Strikes a balance between quantitative rigor and intuitive understanding, at a level accessible to undergraduates. Widely used for introductory courses on elementary particle physics. Quite theory oriented; little content on experimental techniques or accelerators. 2nd edition from 2008 includes neutrino oscillations.
  • Text Book. Martin and Shaw: Particle Physics. Updated 4th edition from 2017 with information on recent discoveries including Higgs, neutrino oscillations, and exotic hadrons beyond the simple quark model. Has one chapter dedicated to experimental methods.
  • Text Book. Thomson: Modern Particle Physics. 1st edition from 2013, up to date including neutrino oscillations and the Higgs discovery. Comprehensive introduction to the Standard Model with plenty of comparisons to real experimental results but no dedicated sections on experimental methods.
  • Text Book. Halzen and Martin: Quarks and Gluons: Introductory Course in Modern Particle Physics. Originally published in 1984, so may be slightly dated.
  • Review Chapter. Amsler, DeGrand, and Krusche: Quark Model. Compact "PDG Review" containing a summary of the quark model, the various hadron flavour multiplets, and their quantum numbers.

General Quantum Field Theory (4th year and higher)

  • Text Book. Schwartz: Quantum Field Theory and the Standard Model. A very recent book (first published 2014), developed as part of an introductory quantum-field-theory course at Harvard, including some modern techniques and placing emphasis on connecting the calculations with experiment.
  • Text Book. Peskin and Schroeder: Introduction to Quantum Field Theory. All-round introduction to quantum field theory, with several advanced topics included towards the end including renormalization. Quite detailed and focused on calculation. Very widely used around the world for 4th-year quantum field theory courses.
  • Text Book. Ryder: Quantum Field Theory. First published 1985. Updated 1996. Slightly more accessible than Peskin and Schroeder. Starts out by assuming a little bit of representation theory, so reading up on the Poincare group could be a good preparation.
  • Text Book. Zee: Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell. More conceptual book which starts from the path-integral formalism and is written in a more playful style than eg that of Peskin and Schroeder. It lies somewhere between Griffiths and Peskin-Schroeder.
  • Lecture Notes and Online Videos. Tong: Introduction to Quantum Field Theory. Based on a course given at Perimeter Institute, covering roughly the first 4 chapters of Peskin and Schroeder. Used for many years as the main lecture notes for the honours year QFT class at Monash.
  • Lecture Notes and Online Videos. Coleman: Quantum Field Theory. Typeset notes from Sidney Coleman's lectures on Quantum Field Theory (Physics 253), given at Harvard University in Fall semester of the 1986-1987 academic year, with link to video recordings of the 1975-1976 class. Coleman's wit and teaching style is legendary and, despite all that may have changed in the 35 years since these lectures were recorded, many students today are excited at the prospect of being able to view them and experience Sidney's particular genius second-hand.
  • Review Chapter. Jackson and Tovey: Kinematics. Compact "PDG Review" containing a summary of relativistic kinematics formulae for simple production and decay processes, including phase space, cross sections and decay widths.
  • Review Chapter. Baer and Cahn: Cross-Section Formulae for Specific Processes. Compact "PDG Review" containing a summary of explicit cross-section formulae for a set of common elementary processes.

I don't recommend Bjorken and Drell (dated by now and replaced by books like Peskin and Schroeder). Likewise the book by Mandl and Shaw. The books by Weinberg are more formal, and could appeal to students with more mathematical tastes and/or researchers who want to get really deep in QFT after getting introduced to it by one of the other works.

General QCD

Monte Carlo Techniques and Event Generators

  • Text Book. James: Monte Carlo Theory and Practice. A classic treatment of general random-number-based Monte Carlo techniques, including some history and applications. (Note: this book is not about event generators, but about the underlying MC techniques.)
  • Review. MCnet Collaboration: General-Purpose Event Generators for LHC Physics. Comprehensive review co-authored by all the major event-generator authors (PYTHIA, HERWIG, SHERPA), treating each of the physics components of the various models. Aimed primarily at PhD students and researchers in phenomenology and experiment. Published in 2011.
  • Review. Parton Fragmentation and String Dynamics. Classic (1983) "Physics Reports" review by the originators of the Lund String Model. This is probably still the most realistic and physical model we have of the non-perturbative process by which partons - quarks and gluons - turn into hadrons. It is the basis of the hadronization model used in the PYTHIA event generator.
  • Text Book. Andersson: The Lund Model. A thorough treatment of the Lund string model of fragmentation by one of its original authors.
  • Video Lecture. Predicting the fine structure of collider events. By Gavin Salam.
  • Summer School Lecture Notes + Slides and Videos. Skands: TASI lectures on QCD. Directed at a level suitable for PhD students in High Energy Physics, aiming to provide a brief introduction to the theory and phenomenology of Quantum Chromodynamics, focusing on aspects relevant to modern collider physics applications and event generators. First published 2012. Updated October 2014.
    1. Fundamentals of QCD [slides]
    2. Jets and Fixed-Order QCD [slides] [YouTube]
    3. Monte Carlo Generators [slides] [YouTube]
    4. Matching at LO and NLO [slides] [YouTube]
    5. QCD in the Infrared [slides] [YouTube]
  • Review Chapter. Cowan: Monte Carlo Techniques. Compact "PDG Review" chapter on MC techniques, including accept-reject, various explicit distributions, and a brief introduction to Markov Chain Monte Carlo. Complementary to the larger text book by James above.
  • Review Chapter. Nason and Skands: Monte Carlo Event Generators. Compact "PDG Review" chapter on general-purpose Monte Carlo Event Generators. Complementary to the larger MCnet reivew above.

Probability and Statistics (related to MC and event analysis)

Computer Codes, C++, Tutorials

Looking For: a good teach-yourself tutorial on basic C++. Please write a mail to me if you can recommend one.

  • Tutorial. Teach-Yourself PYTHIA 8 Tutorial Worksheet.
  • Online Course. Teach-Yourself openMP parallel programming. By Tim Mattson (Intel).
  • C++ code. The PYTHIA 8 Code. General-purpose Monte Carlo event generator, simulating electron-positron and proton-proton collisions at centre-of-mass energies above 10 GeV. Very widely used in studies of collider phenomenology.
  • C++ code. The VINCIA Code. A plug-in to PYTHIA 8 using an alternative formulation of QCD cascades based on so-called "antenna functions". Developed at Monash University.
  • Review Chapter. Monte Carlo Particle Numbering Scheme. Explanation and overview of the so-called PDG codes for particle IDs, used by event generators and other high-energy physics tools. Largely adapted from the codes used in PYTHIA.