“It is great news that the US DOE has recognized the talents of two early career DUNE scientists — both Alex and Chao have made invaluable contributions to DUNE and are both deserving recipients of these prestigious funding awards.”
— DUNE spokespersons Mark Thomson and Ed Blucher
Exerpted and adapted from Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Selected to Receive Early Career Research Program Funding, BNL Newsroom, 15 Aug 2017.
Brookhaven Lab physicist and DUNE collaborator Chao Zhang was selected by DOE’s Office of High Energy Physics to receive funding for a project titled Optimization of Liquid Argon TPCs for Nucleon Decay and Neutrino Physics. Liquid Argon TPCs form the heart of many large-scale particle detectors designed to explore fundamental mysteries in particle physics.
Chao’s aim is to optimize the performance of the DUNE far detector LArTPCs to fully realize their potential to track and identify particles in three dimensions, with a particular focus on making them sensitive to rare proton decays.
His team at Brookhaven Lab will establish a hardware calibration system to ensure the experiment’s ability to extract subtle signals using specially designed cold electronics that will sit within the detector. They will also develop software to reconstruct the three-dimensional details of complex events, and analyze data collected at a prototype experiment (ProtoDUNE, located at Europe’s CERN laboratory) to verify that these methods are working, before incorporating any needed adjustments into the design of the detectors for DUNE.
“I am honored and thrilled to receive this distinguished award,” said Chao. “With this support, my colleagues and I will be able to develop many new techniques to enhance the performance of LArTPCs, and we are excited to be involved in the search for answers to one of the most intriguing mysteries in science, the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe.”
This article is excerpted and adapted from a Fermilab news article, 14 September 2017.
Fermilab’s Alex Himmel expects to spend a large chunk of his career working on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), the flagship experiment of the U.S. particle physics community. That is incentive, he says, to lay the groundwork now to ensure its success.
The Department of Energy has selected Himmel, a Wilson fellow, for a 2017 DOE Early Career Research Award to do just that. He will receive $2.5 million over five years to build a team and optimize software that will measure the flashes of ultraviolet light generated in neutrino collisions in a way that will determine the energy of the neutrino more precisely than is currently possible.
Photons released from neutrino collisions will arrive at their detectors deteriorated and distorted due to scattering and reflections; the light measured is not the same as what was given off.
“What we want to know is, given an amount of energy deposited in the argon, how much light do we see, taking out all the other things we know about how the light moves inside the detector,” he explained.
Researchers are already looking forward to the long-term, positive impact of Himmel’s research.
“Alex has been a true leader in understanding the physics potential of scintillation light in liquid-argon detectors,” said Ed Blucher. “His plan to develop techniques to make the most effective use of photon detection will help to enable the best and broadest possible physics program for DUNE.”
Himmel has deep ties with Fermilab and neutrinos, starting with his first job as a summer student at Fermilab when he was 16. In 2012, he won the Universities Research Association Thesis Award for his research on muon antineutrino oscillations at Fermilab’s MINOS experiment.