Professor Sickles received her bachelor's degree in physics from Gonzaga University in 2001 and her Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University in 2005. She was a postdoctoral researcher at Brookhaven National Lab from 2005 to 2009. In 2009 she joined the scientific staff of Brookhaven first as an Assistant Physicist and then Associate Physicist (2011). She joined the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor in 2014.
Professor Sickles' research is in the field of relativistic heavy ion collisions. She is a member of the ATLAS Collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the PHENIX Experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven.
My research is focused on experimental studies of the matter created in relativistic heavy ion collisions, the quark gluon plasma. This matter is created when temperatures are sufficiently high that colorless hadrons are no longer the relevant degrees of freedom. This matter is characterized by strong interactions between the constituents and is better described as a liquid than a gas.
Recently, evidence of fluid-like behavior in proton-Pb collisions at the LHC was found. This was not expected given that any initial system has a size no bigger than the size of the smaller nucleus. The signature test of this is to vary the geometry of the initial collision region by changing the initial geometry of the system. I led the first measurement to do this by analyzing deuteron-Au collisions at PHENIX. In this case the elongated geometry of the deuteron would lead to an elliptic initial shape for the QGP. We found evidence for this in the particle correlations and the result was published in Phys. Rev. Lett. Taking this further I am interested in He3-Au collisions in which the initial QGP would have a triangular shape. Investigating the small size limit of the QGP provides a new frontier in determining its properties and particularly how the matter itself is formed on such a short timescale.
High energy jets from the hard scattering of quarks and gluons are a very powerful tool with which to study the QGP. In heavy ion collisions the jets propagate through the plasma and the jets are found to "lose" energy during this process. Of course the energy isn't gone, but it is moved away from the jet axis. I am interested in finding where it ends up and what information that provides about the QGP. I am excited about using the ATLAS detector to study jets Pb-Pb collisions. The first heavy ion running after the LHC resumes data taking in 2015 will be at higher energy and luminosity than previous data allowing more detailed studies of jets over a wider kinematic range.
I have also been heavily involved in the sPHENIX upgrade to PHENIX. sPHENIX is a planned upgrade to the PHENIX experiment involving a mid-rapidity solenoid magnet and full electromagnetic and hadronic calorimetry. This would be the only detector at RHIC to be designed specifically to measure jets and would allow direct comparisons with jet measurements at the LHC. I have been a leader in the simulations studies supporting the accessibility of jet reconstruction at RHIC in the heavy ion environment and the detector performance.
It will be especially exciting to have measurements at both RHIC and the LHC. The different collision energies mean different initial temperatures are achieved in the collisions. Jet quenching measurements at both colliders provide the best path to constrain the physics of jet quenching.