Preparing the next generation of neutrino physicists
Former neutrino summer school students and current graduate students Georgia Karagiori and Matt Toups accept an award for their proposal for a neutrino experiment during the Users' Meeting in June.
Georgia Karagiorgi and Matt Toups want to build a giant, super-intense laser with a 100-kilometer beamline to detect "relic neutrinos" from 14 billion years ago.
This cosmic neutrino spectrometer could someday explain how the universe evolved two or thee seconds after the Big Bang.
Such big ideas are exactly the type of innovative, enthusiastic thinking Fermilab scientists want to stir in upcoming researchers.
The pair of Columbia University students received a first place award at the Users' Meeting in June for their unique proposal, part of a neutrino experimental challenge held in 2007 during a 10-day Fermilab Neutrino Physics Summer School. The biannual school will take place again in 2009.
"It was so much fun," Karagiorgi said. "And, it was just in the spirit of the school. Matt and I took what we learned in the lectures and applied it to our projects."
The contest was designed to get students thinking about future experiments for neutrinos, a growing focus of particle physics research. Students were discouraged from letting today's resource constraints limit their ideas.
"We have so many questions. What caused matter to dominate antimatter?" said Gina Rameika, the school's codirector and head of Fermilab's neutrino department. "Neutrinos are fundamental constituents of the universe. Billions of solar neutrinos pass through our bodies every second. We should probably know a little more about them."
The school, one of few in existence, offers grad students and postdocs the opportunity to discuss and hear lectures from leading neutrino physicists. Fermilab's school comprises neutrino research conducted in the sky, underground, in reactors and with accelerators.
"There is a danger in getting too narrow in this subject, so we wanted to keep everything very broad," Rameika said. "You can't do all of particle physics in a single experiment. There are many tools you have to use to get to the fundamentals."
-- Jennifer L. Johnson