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Professor of Physics
PHONE: (617) 324-6281
ASSISTANT: Nicole Dillie (617) 253-2361
Area of Physics:
My work focuses on the lightest known matter particles, the neutrino. Their number far exceeds the atoms in the universe. Yet we know surprisingly little about these particles. It is only within the last decade, for example, that we came to realize these particles have mass, albeit very tiny. This became clear when neutrinos were shown to live a double life, transforming from one type into another through the quantum mechanical effect of neutrino oscillations. This effect requires neutrino mass.
Neutrino mass is the first "chink" in the surprisingly resilient theory of particle physics called The Standard Model. The purpose of my research is to exploit this opportunity through further study of neutrinos. First, now that we know that neutrinos have surprising new properties, I am involved in tests to see if they have more unexpected "features". Second, we must develop a model for particle physics that incorporates neutrino mass, and I am contributing by searching for predicted but as-yet-unseen oscillation modes.
My studies using neutrinos as probes for new physics involve the BooNE experiments. The first generation of these experiments was the MiniBooNE experiment, which searched for a new neutrino beyond the three types known in the Standard Model. This was motivated by an oscillation result from the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND) experiment at Los Alamos, which indicated an oscillation wavelength inconsistent with other experiments, perhaps pointing to the existence of a fourth neutrino species. MiniBooNE provided a strict test of this hypothesis, and ruled out the explanation of a fourth type of neutrino. MiniBooNE continues to take data at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
However, while one neutrino anomaly has been resolved, another has sprung up. At low neutrino energy, MiniBooNE detected an excess of events above the Standard Model expectation and inconsistent with neutrino oscillations. Its source remains a mystery, which is best explored through a more sensitive detector. To this end, I am involved in the MicroBooNE experiment, which is developing a state-of-the-art detector that makes use of liquid Argon. The MicroBooNE detector will have bubble-chamber-like resolution of particle tracks. This experiment will run in 2013 at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
At the same time, I am also involved in exploring for unobserved transmutation modes. While many combinations of oscillations between neutrinos have been observed, there is one which is yet to be seen. The purpose of the Double Chooz experiment, on which I collaborates, is to observe, for the first time, this rare transmutation of anti-electron neutrinos. This experiment will begin taking data in 2010. The results will help us flesh out our newly-forming model of particle physics which incorporates neutrino mass.
Janet Conrad received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1985, M.Sc. from Oxford University in 1987, and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993. She began as a postdoctoral associate at Columbia University and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1996. Most recently, she was the Walter O. Lecroy Professor of Physics at Columbia University.
Publications from inSPIRE (with links to the arXiv).
Last updated on March 19, 2015 2:13 PM