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Title ImagePublic Abstract


DE-SC0012447: Research in Elementary Particle Physics

Award Status: Active
  • Institution: The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
  • DUNS: 045632635
  • PM: Turner, Kathleen
  • Most Recent Award Date: 09/28/2020
  • Number of Support Periods: 7
  • PI: Stancu, Ion
  • Current Budget Period: 06/01/2020 - 04/30/2021
  • Current Project Period: 06/01/2020 - 04/30/2023
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

The goal of high energy physics research is to learn about the fundamental nature of our universe: what are the elementary particles
that make up everything else, and what are the interactions between them?

At the energy frontier, the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are rewriting the textbooks of particle physics, with the
discovery of the long-elusive Higgs boson, considered the cornerstone of the Standard Model of elementary particles. These experiments are also providing stringent tests of the Standard Model predictions at the highest collision energies ever achieved. The Alabama high energy physics group, led by Professors Sergei Gleyzer, Conor Henderson and Paolo Rumerio, collaborates on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the LHC. The Alabama researchers are using this detector to seek signs of possible new physics beyond the Standard Model, such as extra dimensions of space, exotic Higgs decays, or new particles called leptoquarks which could share the properties of leptons and quarks. The Alabama team also contributes to the operation and future upgrade of the CMS detector, and plays a leading role in  the application of advanced Machine Learning algorithms to high-energy physics with CMS.

At the cosmic frontier, dark matter direct detection experiments seek to find the mysterious substance which is thought to comprise about
85% of the total matter in the universe.  Led by Professors Andreas Piepke and Ion Stancu, the University of Alabama group is part of the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment which aims to conduct the most sensitive search for dark matter (limited only by the background from the neutrinos coming from the Sun), in the case it is comprised of heavy, weakly-interacting particles. The cryogenic detector consists of 7 tons of liquid xenon, operated at a temperature of -160 degrees Fahrenheit, surrounded by massive active and passive shielding. It will operate deep underground (4850 ft below the surface), in the former Homestake gold mine in Lead, SD, and represents a collaborative effort of more than 200 scientists from the US, Europe, and Asia. The experiment is presently under construction with data taking scheduled to begin late in 2020. The Alabama group is responsible for screening all materials which are used in the construction of the apparatus - in order to keep all possible backgrounds as low as possible. In addition, Alabama will provide calibration devices for the experiment, is responsible for the architecture of the offline computing systems which will store and analyze the massive amounts of data, and will contribute to the analysis algorithms for these data, as well as to the overall data analysis.

In addition to the experimental efforts described above, Professors Matthias Kaminski and Nobu Okada will lead theoretical research to
develop and apply ideas of elementary particle physics.  One line of effort will focus on describing how the early universe evolved using
holographic techniques and development of effective field theories. Another line of effort, working at the intersections between
experimental observations and predictions of theoretical models, is to find a natural and consistent theory that resolves and explains
problems and mysteries in the current Standard Model of elementary particles and interactions.

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