Research Experience for Undergraduates 

Research Activities

Wayne State
WSU Pipeline
College of Sciences
Physics Department

In this section, we present a brief summary of the research program conducted by PI, CO-PI and senior personnel contributors of this REU/RET proposal at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and CERN.

Nuclear Physics Research at WSU, BNL, and CERN

The Wayne State University experimental heavy ion group is comprised of Profs. W. Llope, C. Pruneau, J. Putschke, and S. Voloshin, three postdocs, and a number of students. The group studies properties of nuclear matter at high densities and temperatures by means of high-energy nuclear collisions. This research is inspired by the standard model of the “strong interaction,” i.e. Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), which describes matter as being made of quarks and gluons. QCD stipulates that quarks and gluons combine in clusters to form color singlet states within which they are absolutely confined.  QCD, however, does not specify the total volume in which such color singlets are established.  Under normal conditions, nuclei consist of clusters of individual hadrons (neutrons and protons) within which color remains confined. At high temperature or density, however, they may undergo a phase transition. In this transition, color is deconfined from the individual neutrons and protons and is confined at a much larger volume. The resulting matter is a state known as the Quark/Gluon Plasma (QGP). This QGP may have existed throughout the universe right after the “Big Bang.”  Understanding this confinement of color is the domain of experimental Relativistic Heavy Ion Physics, which studies nucleus-nucleus collisions at high energies via the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC

The Wayne State experimental heavy ion group played critical roles in the development and deployment of the Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC (STAR) and its physics interests cut across many areas relative to the discovery and characterization of the QGP. Specific topics include the study of flow, event-by-event fluctuations, two-particle short (HBT) and long-range correlations; strangeness production, high transverse momentum particles and hard-probes. The Wayne State heavy ion group is also a member of the ALICE collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) where lead (Pb) beams will be accelerated at energies in excess of 5 TeV per nucleon, and collided to study QGP properties at extremely high temperatures. They are also active members of the ALICE experiment at CERN.

Nuclear and Particle Theory Research at Wayne State

Our REU can support one or two students per year to do theoretical research. Nuclear theory research lead by Profs. A. Majumder and S. Gavin brings a variety of theoretical techniques to bear on the dynamics of the quark-gluon plasma and relativistic heavy ion collisions. Best known for work on charmonium production, Gavin has done highly cited and important work on several very different problems in this field, including thermalization, disoriented chiral condensates, parton energy loss, and correlations. Methods he has used include quantum field theory, QCD perturbation theory, and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. Computational methods range from pencil and paper to numerical simulations on a 20 CPU Linux array. Gavin’s group currently consists of four graduate students and one undergraduate, supported by an NSF/PECASE/CAREER award.  

Particle theory research lead by Profs. G. Paz and A. Petrov pertains to the understanding of the structure of the fundamental electroweak Lagrangian at the smallest scales and development of theoretical tools needed for “clean” interpretation of results from experiments probing the origins of mass and CP-violation. In recent years the group has worked on a variety of problems in the theory and phenomenology of the strong, electromagnetic, and weak interactions. Research topics include studies of the properties of heavy hadrons, applications of effective field theories to problems in Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), meson spectroscopy, and physics of CP-violation. The group is also one of the world leaders in the description of weak transitions of charmed hadrons. The research program of WSU’s particle theory group has significant overlap with current research interests of the Wayne State experimental particle physics groups. Petrov’s group is supported by an NSF/CAREER award and DOE funding. 

Particle Physics with the CDF and CMS Experiments

Profs. R. Harr and P. Karchin are members of the Wayne State CDF group, which is a leader on charm analyses searching for rare decays and mixing.  These analyses involve large quantities of data or Monte Carlo that must be processed and tracked. Harr and Karchin conduct their research with the CDF experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL). FNAL is famous for its recent discoveries of the top quark, and mixing in the b-quark sector. Students are exposed to the leading edge physics pursued by the CDF experiment and get to learn a number of programming and scripting languages such as C++, bash, perl, and python.  Harr and Karchin plan participation in the CMS experiment at the LHC. Karchin is also conducting research and development for International Linear Collider (ILC) detectors.

Astrophysics with the SDSS and LSST at FNAL and SLAC

Prof. D. Cinabro is a member of Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Supernova Search [4] since 2006. This project uses the 2.5-meter survey telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico to perform a rolling search of the heavens with a cadence of two days. To date, four REU students and one RET teacher have worked on Supernova related research projects.  They were mentored by Cinabro and FNAL members of SDSS John Marriner and Gajus Miknaitus.  They worked in data analysis for the SDSS Supernova Search and R&D hardware projects associated with future cosmology experiments such as SNAP and DES.

Prof. Ed Cackett's research interests include astrophysics of compact objects (neutron stars and black holes), more specifically: accretion across the mass scale, observation probes of neutron star dense matter equation of state, reveberation mapping of AGN, etc.

Cinabro is also a member of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope participating in R&D for the construction of a camera with specific attention to mechanical and thermal issues.  He also is leveraging his experience on SDSS to model the LSST calibration program and study methods for supernova cosmology with LSST data.  This provides many additional project opportunities for our REU students.  One challenge with sending students for a summer at SLAC is the expense of nearby housing.  SLAC has agreed to subsidize the housing expenses of up to two Wayne State REU summer students in 2008, making this a viable option for future activities.  Cinabro and his SLAC collaborators, primarily Rafe Schindler on camera R&D and David Burke on calibration modeling, are identifying projects that are suitable for REU summer students.  We expect mentors for two to four students per year among Professor Cinabro, FNAL, and SLAC staff at FNAL, SLAC and Wayne State.  During LSST construction students can be involved at a level similar to the effort we made during CLEO III construction.


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Last modified: September 26, 2007