Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics


Areas of Research

Please click the links below for overviews of the areas of physics research.

Electronic Magnetic Interactions Group (EMI) Hadronic Physics Group (HPG) High Energy Plasma Physics Group Lepton Quark Studies (LQS)
Neutrino and Dark Matter Group Nuclear Interactions Group (NIG) Particle Physics Collaboration (PPC) Relativistic Heavy Ion Group (HIG)


The Electromagnetic Interactions (EMI) Group is led by Prof. Samuel C. C. Ting. This group initiated and has been leading the development of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a $2 billion project conducted by an international collaboration of 600 physicists from 56 institutions representing 16 countries on 3 continents.

This international collaboration designed and built a particle physics detector,AMS-02, which will operate in space on the International Space Station (ISS). The AMS-02 will measure charged particlesflying in space before they interact with the Earth's atmosphere. The AMS-02 is an ideal instrument to search for primordial antimatter, the identity of dark matter, and the origin of cosmic rays. In addition, since the AMS-02 allows researchers to observe the universe in charged particles instead of visible, infrared, or ultraviolet light, we can anticipate the discovery of unknown phenomena which cannot be seen in any frequency of light.

NASA will place the AMS-02 on the ISS, which orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 300 km. Currently, the AMS-02 is scheduled to be launched in 2011 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center and operated for the lifetime of the ISS.

The AMS-02 was preceded by its prototype, the AMS-01, which was also led by the EMI group. The AMS-01 measured charged particles in space in the payload of the Space Shuttle Discoveryfor ten days in 1998. The AMS-01 was the first particle physics detector ever operated in space. Despite the short period of the data collection, the AMS-01 made many intersting and surprising discoveries.

The technology and skills needed to build a particle detector in space and lead a large international collaboration were acquired through nearly half a century of experience in leading particle physics experiments on the ground. In the early 70's, this group discovered theJ particle at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). In the late 70's and early 80's, this group led the Mark-J experiment at the PETRA electron-positron collider at the DESY laboratory in Germany, resulting in the discovery of gluons. In the early 80's to the beginning of this century, this group led the L3 experiment, one of the four large experiments conducted at the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Name Phone Office Email
Ulrich Becker 253-5822 44-123B becker@mit.edu
Samuel Ting 253-8326 44-114 samuel.ting@cern.ch
Paolo Zuccon 253-8564 44-123C pzuccon@MIT.EDU




The Hadronic Physics Group (HPG) conducts medium to high energy nuclear physics experiments in diverse research facilities in the world, including the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), the DESY Laboratory, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF), The Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The main topic of the group is to probe the stricture of protons, neutrons, and other hadrons in order to address a variety of questions, examples of which regard perturbative and/or non-perturbative QCD, the Standard Model of electroweak interaction and models of the early universe.

Name Phone Office Email
Aron Bernstein 253-2386 26-419 bernstein@mit.edu
Stanley Kowalski 253-4288 26-427 sbk@mit.edu
June Matthews 253-4238 26-433 matthews@mit.edu
Richard G. Milner 253-7800
Robert Redwine 253-3600
Michael Williams 253-4816 26-445 mwill@mit.edu




Our research program, Physics of High Energy Plasmas, addresses a broad spectrum of subjects in areas that are relevant to basic plasma physics, nuclear fusion research, astrophysics and space physics. Specifically, we are concerned with in identifying the properties and dynamics of plasmas that are dominated by collective modes emphasizing fusion burning plasmas, with special consideration for the upcoming generation of relevant experiments, and high energy astrophysical plasmas.

We are involved in envisioning new kinds of fusion experiments and are committed to leading the effort to advance the line of high field compact experiments that are represented by the Alcator, the Frascati Torus, and the Ignitor programs that have originated from our effort. We also continue to pursue the study of experiments that can be designed on the basis of present day technologies, to investigate the fusion burning conditions of tritium-poor deuterium plasmas, or deuterium-helium3 plasmas.

High energy astrophysics has blossomed in recent years and continues to produce unexpected results whose interpretation involves the consideration of new kinds of plasmas. As an example, this is particularly necessary for the understanding of phenomena related to processes occurring in the vicinity of black holes, such as the so- called Quasi-Periodic Oscillations of the relevant X-ray emission for which a combination of General Relativity and advanced plasma physics is required.

In the same context, we have identified differentially rotating plasma structures (sequences of rings) that can exist around compact astrophysical objects and are substantially different from the familiar disks that are based on gas dynamics considerations. We have been concerned with plasma collective processes such as characteristic tri-dimensional spirals that can produce significant rates of angular momentum transport, an issue that is important to explain the rates of accretion of matter associated with the (high energy) luminosities of a wide class of objects.

The theories that have been developed to explain relevant laboratory experiments are used as form of guidance in this effort. In particular, we have provided an explanation for the “spontaneous rotation” phenomenon that has been observed in a large class of magnetically confined plasmas and formulated a transport equation for angular momentum (“classical” viscosity is not adequate) that has been repeatedly validated by significant experiments carried out around the world.

Another area of activity concerns the theory of magnetic reconnection (destruction of magnetic field topologies in high energy plasmas) that is involved in a variety of phenomena occurring in laboratory, space and astrophysical plasmas.

Computational power and experimental measurements are steadily improving towards the point where simulations can make quantitative and testable predictions about plasma behavior. Therefore, we have been actively involved in the development of relevant computational plasma physics and have pursued a longstanding interest in the nonlinear numerical simulation of global plasmas in three (spatial) dimensions. In particular, we are concerned with developing models and applying them to experiments and to basic theoretical issues.

Name Phone Office Email
Bruno Coppi 253-2507 26-547 coppi@mit.edu




The Lepton Quark Studies (LQS) group is committed to several experiments in particle physics: a dark mattersearch, a high-energy proton-proton collider experiment, and a future electron-positron collider experiment.

This group is developing a new type of detector Dark Matter Time-Projection Chamber (DMTPC). This detector will measure the direction from which the wind of dark matter blows on Earth. Astrophysical observation indicates that Earth moves relative to the dark matter halo of Milky Way, which makes the wind of the dark matter blow from the direction of Cygnus. From the perspective of observers on Earth, this direction modulates daily as Earth rotates. The daily modulation is the smoking-gun signature of the dark matter and observing it will significantly helps researchers to determine the identity of the dark matter.

The MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Science has been playing a leading role in the ATLAS Muon System for over fifteen years since the beginning of its design. This leadership currently resides in the LQS group. The ATLAS detector is one of two multipurpose particle detectors at Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. The ATLAS detector is the largest collider detector ever constructed and its Muon System is the outermost and largest sub-component. A significant fraction of the Muon System was constructed here in Massachusetts and shipped to Europe. Researchers in the LQS group take responsibility for the operation of the Muon System.

Historically, the LQS group has demonstrated its strength in many electron-positron collider experiments. This group conducts detector R&D for the International Linear Collider (ILC). The ILC is a future electron-positron collider at the same energy range as the LHC but will provide a cleaner environment suited for precise measurements. Until recently, this group participated in the BaBar experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, leading to the first observation of D mixing. Beforehand, the group studied polarized Z bosons at the SLDexperiment, which also took place at SLAC, and the production of charmed mesons at theBeijing Spectrometer (BES) at Beijing Electron Positron Collider (BEPC) in Beijing, China.

Name Phone Office Email
Peter Fisher 253-8561 26-541 fisherp@mit.edu
Frank E. Taylor 253-7249
ATLAS Collaboration, 188-3-015
Route de Meyrin 385/CH-1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland, MIT - 26-569




Neutrinos are the most abundant type of particles in the Universe. Neutrinos are electrically neutral and have tiny mass. Neutrinos rarely interact with any material, which makes experimental study of neutrino extremely challenging.

Neutrinos were long thought be massless particles. In fact, in the original form of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, neutrinos had no mass. However, in the late 90's, physicists observed neutrino oscillation, a quantum mechanical effect which would not occur unless neutrinos have mass. Despite the tininess, the neutrino mass has far-reaching implications. For example, the neutrino mass implies that neutrinos played a decisive role in the formation of the Universe. It potentially blurs the distinction between matter and antimatter, which might account for the apparent absence of antimatter. Neutrino physics has been rapidly developing over the last decade since the discovery of neutrino mass. It exerts substantial impact in many areas of physics, including not only nuclear and particle physics but also astrophysics and cosmology.

One of the outstanding questions that currently exists in cosmology is that we know very little about what makes up the universe. Dark matter accounts for about 1/4 of the total matter in the universe, yet its nature and properties are still a mystery. Direct detection of dark matter has yet to be observed.

Name Phone Office Email
Janet Conrad 324-6281 26-537 conrad@mit.edu
Peter Fisher 253-8561 26-541 fisherp@mit.edu
Joseph Formaggio 253-3817 26-539 josephf@mit.edu




The Nuclear Interactions Group (NIG) focuses on understanding the fundamental nature of nuclear interactions and the dynamical structure of nucleons and nuclei. The Nuclear Structure physics information is obtained by experiments in which high-energy beams of electrons or photons interact with target made of protons, few-body nuclear systems, or more complex nuclei. The scattered electrons and other particles ejected from the reaction are detected and the probabilities for such process to happen (cross sections) are extracted. Because the electrons and photons are point-like particles with no known internal structure or excited states, and because their electro-magnetic interaction with the target is relatively weak and well understood (as opposed to the strong interaction among the constituents of the target itself), they penetrate deeply into the target nucleon or nuclei without disturbing its substructure, thus enabling the extraction of the internal structure of the nuclear or nucleon target with a relatively easy interpretation.

Name Phone Office Email
William Bertozzi 253-5167 26-437 bertozzi@mit.edu




The Particle Physics Collaboration (PPC) group pursues the completion theStandard Model of particle physics, a set of theories which describe all known phenomena concerning the electroweakand strong interactions, and exploresphysics beyond the Standard Model. The group does this by analyzing a large amount of data in high-energy proton-proton collisions collected by theCompact Muon Solenoidal (CMS), one of two multi-purpose particle detectors installed at interaction points of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland.

This group plays a leading role in theCompact Muon Solenoidal (CMS) collaboration at the LHC, composed of 183 institutions from 38 countries, with 3000 scientists and engineers. After 20 years of design and construction, the CMS detector, the heaviest detector ever constructed for particles physics which weighs 14,000 tons, started collecting proton-proton collision data in October 2009.

Name Phone Office Email
Jerome I. Friedman 253-7585 24-512 jif@mit.edu
Markus Klute 252-1589 24-508 klute@mit.edu
Yen-Jie Lee 24-413 yen-jie.lee@cern.ch
Christoph Paus 258-0314
24-509 paus@mit.edu
Lawrence Rosenson 253-7595 24-520 rosenson@mit.edu




The Relativistic Heavy Ion Group (HIG) searches for and investigates the property of new states of matter in extreme conditions, a hundred thousand times hotter and a trillion times denser than the core of the Sun. Such extreme conditions can be created for a moment followinghigh-energy heavy-ion collisions in two laboratories: Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Long Island, New York and CERN, Geneva, Switzerland.

Quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of the strong interaction, makes an intriguing prediction about a state of matter in extreme conditions: if matter is extraordinarily heated or condensed, it will enter a new thermodynamic phase,quark-gluon plasma (QGP), in whichquarks and gluons are deconfined fromhadrons. QGP is the primary interest of this group.

This group led the PHOBOS experiment at BNL, which concluded data collection in 2005. The PHOBOS experiment is one of the four experiments that observed surprising properties of a new state of matter created by BNL's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). This new state of matter was produced at temperatures of about 4 trillion degrees Celsius after gold-gold collisions and lasted for less than a billionth of a trillionth of a second. While it was expected that quarks and gluons behave like molecules in a gas in an extremely hot and dense environment, the observed properties indicate that the properties of this new matter are close to those of a perfect liquid.

This group now takes a leading role in the heavy-ion program of the Compact Muon Solenoidal(CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The LHC is capable of colliding lead ions at the energy about 30 times higher than RHIC. The CMS experiment will examine this perfect liquid of quarks and gluons at much higher temperatures and explore different parts of the phase diagram. The CMS experiment collected lead-lead collision data in November 2010.

Name Phone Office Email
Wit Busza 253-7586 24-510 busza@mit.edu
Gunther Roland 253-9735 24-504 rolandg@mit.edu
George Stephans 253-4237 24-412 gsfs@mit.edu
Boleslaw Wyslouch 253-5431 24-518 wyslouch@mit.edu