ARRA funds grant to young physicist for LBNE research
Christopher Mauger says he's the kind of guy who enjoys the chase; it's one of the reasons he studies the elusive neutrino. Last week, however, Mauger was in no state to chase anything; he had a terrible cold. Even so, he flashed a slightly crooked smile as he remembered a recent e-mail.
"It made my day. It especially made my boss's day," he joked, clutching a neatly folded handkerchief.
The good news was that Mauger is one of 69 early career scientists selected from a pool of 1,750 applicants to receive Department of Energy research grants, which were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Mauger will receive a total of 2.5 million dollars over the next five years.
Mauger will focus on Fermilab's near detector for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, which recently passed the first hurdle toward development.
Based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mauger hopes his work will lead to some of the highest precision neutrino measurements ever made.
"The higher precision measurements we make at the near detector, the better predictions we can make about what we'll see at the far detector," he said. The results, he says, are critical to understanding why we exist at all.
As a stargazing kid growing up in southern New Jersey, the sheer scale of the cosmos made Mauger start asking big questions-How did we get here? How did the universe evolve? Fast forward two decades, and his years of research at Japan's K2K and Super-Kamiokande experiments, and now Fermilab's LBNE, are moving him closer to an answer.
That's because measuring neutrino oscillation could explain why matter beat out antimatter in the early universe-and the existence of everything from guppies to galaxies.
In addition to answering existential questions, the work could lead to unforeseen technological developments, just as accelerators helped bring MRI technology to the mainstream.
"Neutrinos have surprised us in the past, I'm sure they'll surprise us in the future," he said. "That's what makes them so much fun."
-- Andrea Mustain