UT Arlington particle physics team awarded $2.5 million grant, 25 percent funding increase

May 16th, 2014
Physicists from UT Arlington who have traveled the world to support new scientific discoveries, including the widely publicized Higgs boson, have been awarded a $2.5 million, three-year Department of Energy grant to further their work.

The funding, which begins this month, represents a 25 percent increase from previous Energy Department base award grants to the College of Science's Center of Excellence in High Energy Physics – a hearty recognition of the innovative ideas and research under way at The University of Texas at Arlington.

"Our professors and students are known internationally for their expertise in the field of high energy physics, and this grant award is a strong endorsement," said UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari. "Whether it is working at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, processing huge volumes of data at our supercomputing center or inspiring tomorrow's scientific leaders in the classroom, they are contributing greatly to our very understanding of the natural laws that govern our world.

"This award will ensure that the work they have been doing will continue to thrive," he said.

Kaushik De, director of the UT Arlington Center of Excellence in High Energy Physics, said news of the increased funding came after university programs across the U.S. and individual researchers in them were required to undergo an extensive comparative review by federal officials. The purpose was to identify research proposals with the highest "scientific merit, impact and potential."

Other members of the UT Arlington group funded in this proposal include Professors Andrew White, Andrew Brandt, Jaehoon Yu and Associate Professor Amir Farbin. The Department of Energy also funds Farbin through its prestigious Early Career Research Program, aimed at supporting "outstanding scientists early in their careers".

"Undergoing the review and preparing our proposal for future research took years of strategic planning, but the result is extraordinary. This is indeed a special achievement by our faculty and a good sign for the future of high energy physics at UT Arlington," De said.

Proposals to the Energy Department's High Energy Physics program for fiscal year 2014 had an overall 48 percent success rate, according to figures presented at a recent advisory panel meeting for High Energy Physics held in the Washington, D.C. area. During the review process, about 81 percent of previously funded groups received research support.

For almost two decades, UT Arlington physicists have been part of the ATLAS group, one of two research groups at the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, and the DZero experiment and the flagship Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) at the Fermilab Tevatron near Chicago.

The LHC is a massive particle accelerator built 100 meters underground near Geneva. There, scientists collide proton beams to scatter particles, simulate Big Bang conditions and learn more about the origins of the universe and matter. The complementary Fermilab program is preparing an extremely high intensity proton beam to explore rare neutrinos and to search for low mass dark matter.

Besides explaining the interaction among subatomic particles such as protons, muons, quarks and others in the Physics Standard Model, particle research has also led to high-tech advances in the area of medical screenings, drug manufacturing, cancer treatment, Big Data and homeland security.

Parts of the LHC detector system were built at UT Arlington and shipped from North Texas. De, the leader of the UT Arlington ATLAS group, is also the co-developer of PanDA, a workload management software system built to process huge volumes of data from LHC. UT Arlington hosts a large supercomputing center called the SouthWest Tier II center to process ATLAS data.

Along with other collaborators, UT Arlington scientists were part of the joint research team that worked on the search for the Higgs boson or "God particle." The elusive particle first described in 1964 is thought to give mass to the universe. It was first observed at the LHC in 2012, which led to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for Peter Higgs and François Englert.

Together, members of the high energy physics center at UT Arlington have garnered more than $20 million in research for their various projects over the past 10 years. The largest portion of the new award – about $1.8 million – will fund the continuation of UT Arlington's work at the ATLAS experiment, including an effort by Brandt to provide further measurements of the recently discovered Higgs.

Other areas of funding include:

  • About $528,000 in funding will go for work on the Intensity Frontier experiments at Fermilab. The Intensity Frontier is another collaboration of scientists using particle accelerators and highly sensitive detectors to measure some of the rarest interactions predicted by the Standard Model, including those involving neutrinos, and searches for dark matter in proton beams. Yu is leading UT Arlington's role in the project.
  • About $140,000 toward UT Arlington's involvement in planning for the International Linear Collider, or ILC, an international project seen as the next step in physics exploration. The planned 30-kilometer-long electron-positron collider will expand the work of the LHC, by exploring the Higgs boson and looking for new physics. UT Arlington scientists led by White are working on the Silicon Detector Design, or SiD, concept for the new facility and developing a new way to measure the energy of collision products. White is a co-spokesperson for the SiD Consortium.

Provided by University of Texas at Arlington

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