Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics



MIT Physics Department faculty work with their research groups in MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS) to understand the structures and interactions of the fundamental constituents of matter. They carry out research in nuclear and particle physics, subfields that are seamlessly integrated at MIT. Their work is often done with large experimental equipment located away from MIT, using state-of-the-art computers, and with guidance and assistance from highly skilled engineering and technical staff.

Nuclear physics experiments are performed with electrons at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, with polarized protons at Brookhaven National Laboratory, with neutrons at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, and with electrons and positrons at the DESY Laboratory in Germany. The high-energy particle physics program involves experiments with both high-energy protons and heavy ions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland; the search for antimatter and dark matter in space with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station; and additional dark matter experiments at WIPP in New Mexico and SNOLab in Canada. Properties of neutrinos are being explored through experiments at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Karlsruhe, Germany, and Chooz, France.

Central research themes at present include:

Determining the Fundamental Laws of Nature

  • Are there extra dimensions beyond the three space and one time?
  • Where is the anti-matter?
  • What is the mass of the neutrino?

Understanding the Large Scale Structure of the Universe

  • How did the universe evolve?
  • Where is the dark matter?

Exploring the High Energy Frontier

  • What is the origin of mass?

Understanding Atomic Nuclei

  • What is the nature of the hot, dense matter of the early universe?
  • What is the structure of the proton?

Development of New Research Tools

  • Calculation of the proton’s structure and properties using the most powerful computers
  • Development of new detectors
  • Development of new accelerators