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 the convener of the ATLAS Heavy Ion Working Group (2018-2020) at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and a member of the sPHENIX 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. My group has measured how the jets are modified and where particles are, both within and around the jets, this information is key to understanding the modification of the jets by the QGP and how the QGP reacts to the presence of a jet. The wealth of ATLAS data from Run 2 allow more detailed studies of jets.
My group also works on the the sPHENIX detector. sPHENIX is a new detector at RHIC which is expected to start data taking in 2023. It is designed specifically to measure jets and will allow direct comparisons with jet measurements at the LHC. Illinois is the primary construction site for the electromagnetic calorimeter blocks.
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.