On July 9th, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) publicly declared it would provide $75 million in research funding for a variety of high energy physics projects. Funding will be given through 77 research awards spread across 59 U.S. universities and will explore both experimental and theoretical questions.
Among these 77 awards, three were presented to Berkeley faculty: Dr. Yury Kolomensky, Dr. Daniel McKinsey, and Dr. Gabriel Orebi Gann. Dr. Kolomensky’s research project seeks to discover the muon-to-electron and muon-to-positron conversions near a nucleus. Referred to as the Mu2e experiment, this project aims to see one conversion event in about ten quadrillion captured muons. This would give researchers an unprecedented level of precision that would allow them to test many new physics models and find hints of particles much heavier than what can be produced at particle colliders.
Dr. McKinsey’s research focuses on finding dark matter interactions with the LZ experiment located at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota. This dark matter detector is at least 100 times more sensitive than its predecessor and will begin its deep-underground hunt for theoretical particles known as WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles, in 2020.
Dr. Orebi Gann was recognized for two aspects of her work in precision photon detection, targeting detector development for future neutrino and dark matter experiments. Her work to improve our understanding of extreme ultra-violet photon detection could enable key low-energy physics measurements to enhance the program of the flagship US-based neutrino oscillation experiment, DUNE. Development of novel target materials combined with fast photon detection could enable a future, large-scale detector with an unprecedented broad physics program, such as the proposed Theia experiment.
The emphasis on high energy physics is in part due to a desire to better our understanding of how our universe functions at the most basic level. The projects chosen to receive this funding were selected through a competitive peer review process and will continue for up to four years.