Particle Physics

Particle Physics // Ava Myers & Nicholas Suarez

Current directions in particle physics aim to develop higher-precision tests of the standard model, discover new particles at energies higher than those previously probed, and develop new theoretical predictions for theories beyond the standard model. The Particle Physics group makes significant contributions in all of these areas.

Joseph Boudreau, James Mueller, and Tae Min Hong comprise the group working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. This large collaboration detected the Higgs Bosonin 2012, which was the last particle in the standard model to be discovered experimentally, and resulted in the 2013 Nobel Prize for theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert who were among a group which predicted the particle's existence in the 1960's. The University of Pittsburgh ATLAS group has built and maintains the electronicsinterface between the ATLAS calorimeters and the Level-1 trigger. It also plays a leading role in the development of object-oriented detector simulation software. Currently the group is involved in the detailed analysis of data on the Higgs boson and on the top quark, which is the particle with the strongest coupling to the Higgs boson and thus a likely place to discover new surprises.

Vladimir Savinov and his group work on the Belle experiment at the KEK Accelerator Laboratory in Japan, where they search for new particles and interactions. The group is involved in studies of fundamental symmetries of nature and their violations in decays of known particles, including B and upsilon mesons, and tau leptons. Such measurements represent indirect probes of new physics up to energy scales of 100 TeV.

The neutrino physics group, which includes Steven Dytman (emeritus), Donna Naples, Vittorio Paolone, and Pranava Teja Surukuchi, studies the properties and interactions of neutrinos with matter. Neutrinos, with tiny (and as yet undetermined) masses and only weak interactions, are among the most enigmatic fundamental particles. Surukuchi seeks to pin down the nature of neutrinos (Dirac or Majorana) with the CUORE experiment at Gran Sasso, Italy. He is also performing R&D for the next generation highly-sensitive direct neutrino mass measurement with Project 8. Naples and Paolone aim to characterize neutrino mass states and CP violation using the phenomenon of oscillation, as well as measuring neutrino interaction cross-sections and searching for new physics in neutrino beams. Our present accelerator-based neutrino experiments include MicroBooNE, ICARUS, and NOvA experiments at Fermilab and the T2K experiment in Japan. In addition, Naples and Paolone are involved in planning for DUNE, a future long-baseline experiment at Fermilab, which will search for CP violation in neutrino interactions.

Our high energy theorists (Brian Batell, Daniel Boyanovsky, H. Anthony Duncan (emeritus), Ayres Freitas, Tao HanAdam Leibovich, Max Niedermaier and Eric Swanson) study a range of topics, including accelerator signatures of physics beyond the standard model, phenomenology of quark bound states, perturbative electroweak processes, and field theory techniques for inflation, phase transitions, neutrinos, quantum gravity, and gravitational radiation. The theorists often work closely with experimental colleagues to model and interpret signals in current and future experiments. Ralph Roskies, another high-energy theorist, has served as Scientific Co-Director for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center since its founding.

The activities of the Particle Physics group are supported by PITT PACC. Center members organize workshops on timely topics in particle physics and astrophysics, and hosts the yearly international Phenomenology conference series, one of the world's largest annual gatherings of particle physicists.