Software Engineer at iThemba LABS. Building data acquisition, visualization and analysis software for physics experiments.
The electrostatic Tandetron accelerator of the Materials Research Department at iThemba LABS is used primarily for conducting research in the field of Ion Beam Analysis.
The field comprises of several techniques, one of which is Real Time In-Situ Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry. This technique studies elemental composition and depth profiling during the formation of metal silicides, in real time, while the sample material is thermally annealed. Data for these experiments must be acquired by reading out electronics modules, and visualized/analyzed both during the experiment, and offline.
Data acquisition is done using largely in-house developed software built on top of open-source frameworks. The offline analysis, visualization and manipulation of this data, which includes the creation of contour and 3 dimensional plots of the backscattered particle histograms over time, is done using Python in combination with the ROOT data analysis framework developed at CERN. ROOT has an extension module named PyRoot, that allows interaction with ROOT functions and data structures from Python.
This talks discusses how the software was developed to achieve that, as well as how Python is used during a live experiment to log information about the state of the experiment and display that data using an ELK stack. While this is a case study in creating specific software tools to handle data from a novel physics experiment, it would be of general interest to anybody wanting to visualize data or do logging using Python.