The LHC collides protons at a rate of 40 MHz; interesting events however, such as those containing the Higgs boson, occur far less frequently. It is technologically infeasible to retain every event and so events must be analysed in real time to select only the interesting ones from the very large background. To do this, the CMS experiment uses a trigger system. The second tier of the trigger system, the High-Level Trigger (HLT) is based on a farm of 30 000 CPU cores.

The LHC will be upgraded over the next five years or so to deliver a higher proton-proton interaction rate. This presents an unprecedented challenge to the real-time data processing of the CMS HLT, requiring processing power orders of magnitude larger than today. This exceeds by far the expected increase in processing power for conventional CPUs from Moore’s Law, demanding an alternative approach.

The project will study the feasibility of allowing the CMS HLT applications to run on heterogeneous hardware, Maxeler Technologies’ FPGA-based dataflow engines, with the goal of demonstrating that they can achieve higher throughput and better energy efficiency by running each step of a computing task on the architecture that best matches its characteristics.

London-based Maxeler Technologies is the world leader in the development and application of FPGA-based dataflow computing engines for high-performance computing. Maxeler has created a first-of-its-kind higher-level programming environment for FPGA-based computers that eliminates the need to program the FPGAs using low-level languages, making the technology fully accessible to scientists.

The project aims to demonstrate that triggering algorithms running on Maxeler's accelerator hardware can meet the stringent timing requirements faced in the CMS trigger. Various approaches to the implementation of sophisticated algorithms, including Machine Learning, in FPGAs will be explored, addressing a key need for data-processing in many areas of science.

The studentship covers a maintenance bursary, similar to standard STFC studentships, and all fees. It is likely that the student will have the opportunity to spend extended periods at CERN, for which travel costs will be paid. The studentship is open to both UK and EU students. Students interested in applying for this studentship should follow the normal application procedure outlined on our main postgraduate recruitment page but should also directly contact the people listed below.

Dr A. Tapper (
Dr A. Rose (