Undergrad Matthew Feickert named URA Visiting Scholar for Summer 2010

Celia Elliott
4/5/2010

Physics undergraduate Matthew Feickert has been awarded a Universities Research Association (URA) Visiting Scholar Award for Summer 2010. He will be in residence at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), where he will work under the direction of Assistant Professor of Physics Mark S. Neubauer on an analysis of proton-antiproton collision data collected using the CDF detector.

Their project, "A search for WZ and WW resonances (including Higgs) in the lvqq final state," involves a new analysis of CDF data that has applicability to Neubauer's work on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in in the pursuit of an understanding of the origin of electroweak symmetry breaking. The most sensitive search for a Higgs boson with a mass near the W boson pair production threshold of 165 GeV/c2 involves decay of the Higgs to a pair of W bosons, where each W decays to a charged lepton and a neutrino. (See "Higgs mass constrained by new analysis", a news story on a recent search for the Higgs boson in this "fully-leptonic" decay mode.)

It is more than six times more likely for one of the W bosons to decay to a quark-antiquark pair leading to two high-energy jets than it is to decay to a charged lepton and a neutrino, leading to an overall higher Higgs decay rate in the semi-leptonic decay channel. The drawback to the semi-leptonic decay channel is that it has larger background, compared with the fully leptonic decay channel for a Higgs mass at or below 165 GeV/c2. However, the background decreases very rapidly with increasing energy, such that the larger overall decay rate present in the semileptonic decay channel becomes important to the search for a Higgs boson with mass above the W boson pair threshold. The sensitivity to a high-mass Higgs boson will soon become dominated by the LHC experiments CMS and ATLAS.

Universities Research Association, Inc. is a consortium of 87 leading research universities; the not-for-profit corporation was founded in 1965 for management and operation of research facilities in the national interest. With the University of Chicago, it operates FNAL in Batavia, Illinois.

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Imagine planting a single seed and, with great precision, being able to predict the exact height of the tree that grows from it. Now imagine traveling to the future and snapping photographic proof that you were right.

If you think of the seed as the early universe, and the tree as the universe the way it looks now, you have an idea of what the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration has just done. In a presentation today at the American Physical Society Division of Particles and Fields meeting at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, DES scientists will unveil the most accurate measurement ever made of the present large-scale structure of the universe.

These measurements of the amount and “clumpiness” (or distribution) of dark matter in the present-day cosmos were made with a precision that, for the first time, rivals that of inferences from the early universe by the European Space Agency’s orbiting Planck observatory. The new DES result (the tree, in the above metaphor) is close to “forecasts” made from the Planck measurements of the distant past (the seed), allowing scientists to understand more about the ways the universe has evolved over 14 billion years.

“This result is beyond exciting,” said Scott Dodelson of Fermilab, one of the lead scientists on this result. “For the first time, we’re able to see the current structure of the universe with the same clarity that we can see its infancy, and we can follow the threads from one to the other, confirming many predictions along the way.”

It took two years on a supercomputer to simulate 1.2 microseconds in the life of the HIV capsid, a protein cage that shuttles the HIV virus to the nucleus of a human cell. The 64-million-atom simulation offers new insights into how the virus senses its environment and completes its infective cycle.

The findings are reported in the journal Nature Communications.