Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics


Areas of Research

MIT Physics Department faculty work with their research groups within MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS) to understand the structures and interactions of the fundamental constituents of matter. MIT Physics Ph.D. students form the backbone of current LNS research activities worldwide. They carry out research in nuclear and particle physics, subfields that are seamlessly integrated within LNS. Their work is done with large experimental equipment, usually located away from MIT,
sophisticated theoretical calculations, state-of-the-art computers, and with guidance and assistance from LNS faculty and highly skilled engineering and technical staff.

Using the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, LNS students explore the phase diagram of quarks and gluons by creating droplets of the hottest matter anywhere in the universe --since it was a few microseconds old-- in
ultra-relativistic heavy ions. Other students use the CMS detector to study protonproton collisions to measure the properties of the Higgs boson and search for dark matter. Students also use the LHCb detector at CERN to study particles containing
charm and beauty quarks.

LNS students are working to understand how the light-quark meson spectrum, and basic properties of the proton (e.g. mass and spin), arise from quarks and gluons using electron scattering at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.
Experiments at Jefferson Lab and elsewhere also study short-range correlations between the neutrons and protons in nuclei. A new research effort is getting underway to study the structure and properties of atomic nuclei using precision atomic physics techniques.

Some LNS students are also developing ingenious detectors to look for direct evidence of the dark matter that makes up 85% of the mass of the universe; others are busy analyzing data with unprecedented precision from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer that has been operating on the International Space Station since 2011.