High Energy, Medium Energy & Heavy Ion Physics - University of Houston
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High Energy, Medium Energy & Heavy Ion Physics

Faculty: Rene BellwiedEd Hungerford, Carlos OrdonezLawrence Pinsky, Anthony Timmins, and Lisa Whitehead

The particle physics group at UH studies the fundamental interactions of elementary particles. The current experimental program engages in forefront experiments in neutrino physics, dark matter searches, and quark-gluon plasma studies. The theoretical program focuses on quantum field theory and its applications to black holes.

Lau, Mayes, and Pinsky are involved in the Daya Bay neutrino experiment. Daya Bay is a frontier experiment aimed at measuring the third neutrino mixing angle Θ13 using neutrinos from the Daya Bay Nuclear Reactor complex. The neutrinos are now known to have mass, resulting in mixing among the three kinds of neutrinos. Precision measurement of all the mixing angles and neutrino masses will eventually lead to a better understanding of particle physics beyond the Standard Model. A value of the third mixing angle above 0.01 will be measureable at Daya Bay, which will allow the exploration of CP violation in the lepton sector. The UH group plays an important role in the muon veto detector of the experiment. 

Hungerford, Lau, and Pinsky are involved in the detection of dark matter using depleted liquid argon. The current theory predicts over 90 percent of the matter in the universe is in the form of dark matter whose real nature is still unknown. One possibility is weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), relics of for example supersymmetric particles from the Big Bang. The experiment will deploy a large liquid argon detector in the DUSEL underground lab. The experiment will probe WIMP-type dark matter at a new level of sensitivity. The UH group has important role and responsibility in the experiment.

Pinsky and Mayes work on the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). ALICE is a large particle detector at one of the six interaction regions at the LHC, aimed at the detection and elucidation of quark-gluon plasma formed in the collision of heavy ions at LHC energies. The high energy density in the collision of heavy ions facilitates the formation of a new state of matter, the quark-gluon plasma, whose presence can be inferred from detailed analysis of particle production topology and kinematics. The UH group has an important role and responsibilities in the ALICE experiment, including the calibration and assembly of the Avalanche Photo Diodes to be used in the Electro-Magnetic Calorimeter being supplied by the United States as its major equipment contribution to the ALICE experiment.

The theory group (Ordonez) develops and applies quantum field theory techniques to particle physics and gravity. The research topics include formal quantum field theory, string theory, quantum supergravity, effective Lagrangian formulation of nuclear physics, and, more recently, studies of conformal quantum mechanics (CQM) and its importance in black hole thermodynamics. As one approaches the black hole horizon, an SO(2,1) symmetry characterizing CQM emerges which seems to completely determine black hole thermodynamics as well as Hawking radiation.

The research programs are supported by grants from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation. Research assistantships are available to qualified students. We also support visitors.