Sickles is a collaborator on the ATLAS experiment at CERN and studies what happens when particles of light meet inside the Large Hadron Collider. For most of the year, the LHC collides protons, but for about a month each fall, the LHC switches things up and collides heavy atomic nuclei, such as lead ions. The main purpose of these lead collisions is to study a hot and dense subatomic fluid called the quark-gluon plasma, which is harder to create in collisions of protons. But these ion runs also enable scientists to turn the LHC into a new type of machine: a photon-photon collider.
High Energy Physics
What is High Energy Physics?
In high energy physics we seek to understand the nature of space and time, the characteristics of the forces governing the interactions of matter and energy, and the origins of the properties of the elementary particles. Modern theories of particle physics purport to explain the origin of mass, and hope to unify the descriptions of all the forces, including gravity. With the discovery that "normal" matter constitutes only 4% of the total energy in the universe, the study of dark matter and dark energy has attracted great interest.
What are we doing in High Energy Physics at Illinois?
Our group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is active on many fronts.
Our theoretical research program includes a broad particle phenomenology component, including efforts to develop new theories of dark matter and their possible signatures, model physics beyond the standard model with a focus on LHC phenomenology and to develop early-universe theories and study their connections to particle physics. Our lattice QCD effort aims to calculate the hadronic corrections needed for decoding measurements at collider experiments.
The theoretical effort also includes research into fundamental aspects of quantum field theory, string theory, AdS/CFT and quantum gravity. The AdS/CFT duality relates questions in quantum gravity to those in strongly interacting quantum many-body physics, so this effort includes strong interdisciplinary links to condensed matter theory and quantum information theory.
In the experimental program our running experiments are ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider and the Dark Energy Survey in Chile. Data analysis from CDF at the Tevatron is still going strong. Our CDF and ATLAS groups are active in top physics, gauge boson physics, flavor physics with bottom hadrons, and studies of the newly discovered Higgs boson candidate.
Work on ATLAS upgrades is in progress, and our group is helping to build a hardware track finder (FTK) for the ATLAS trigger and the read-out system for the New Small Wheel muon upgrade. Much of our work has focused on understanding and improving the detector performance. We work on both TileCal and Muon subsystem commissioning and analyses. Our group is involved in searches for beyond-the-standard model physics using three complementary approaches: searches for new resonances, exotic Higgs decays, and searches for supersymmetric particles.
We are involved in the muon g-2 and μ2e experiments being built at Fermilab, and The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile.
The g-2 experiment is the latest generation of an experiment to measure the magnetic moment of the muon and we are building a very challenging clock system for the experiment. The μ2e experiment searches for the (Standard Model) forbidden decay of a muon into an electron and no neutrinos. We are involved with the design and construction of the data acquisition systems for each of these experiments, developing the timing and control system for g-2 and are collaborating on the DAQ system. The group is also actively involved in the interface between the data acquisition system and the analysis, as real-time data processing and reduction will be needed.
The Dark Energy Survey (DES) studies dark matter and dark energy through their effect on the acceleration of the universe (supernovas and baryon acoustic oscillation) and on the history of structure formation (galaxy cluster formation and large-scale structure). DES started taking data in September 2012. Our data set will establish a new standard in the accuracy of cosmological measurements. The DES is in its third year (of five) of data taking, and the LSST recently passed its CD3 review, with full science operations scheduled for 2023.
LSST will provide digital imaging of faint astronomical objects across half of the sky every three days, opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move on rapid timescales: exploding supernovae, potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, and distant Kuiper Belt Objects. The superb images from the LSST will also be used to measure the distortions in remote galaxy shapes produced by lumps of dark matter, providing multiple tests of the mysterious dark energy.
Visit the group's website at http://hep.physics.illinois.edu.