Research & Discovery

Yale-led MicroBooNE experiment’s first results show no hint of a sterile neutrino

headshot superimposed on data. Researchers in the Yale High Energy Physics group, led by Wright Lab professor Bonnie Fleming, along with the Micro Booster Neutrino Experiment (MicroBooNE) collaboration, have been searching since 2008 for evidence of an anomaly, first seen in a previous experiment called MiniBooNE, that could potentially have been a theoretical new particle called the sterile neutrino.  If evidence of a sterile neutrino were found, it would require scientists to reconsider what is known as the “Standard Model of Particle Physics” and be a radical shift in our understanding of the basic building blocks of the universe. Read more.

Giant clams, pollen, and squid eyes — blueprints for a better world

illustration by Michael Helfenbein

Alison Sweeney, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of physics, speaks about giant clams, pollen, and squid eyes with Yale News. Sweeney’s lab focuses on the evolution of biological soft matter and the mechanisms by which they assembled themselves over time. Understanding those mechanisms, she says, may offer the means for creating new biofuels, chemicals, and materials that help sustain planet Earth.  Read more.

Newburgh’s drones help calibrate Brookhaven National Laboratory telescope

group of people with drone

The Wright Lab team includes 3 undergraduates, 2 graduate students and a postdoctoral associate. Read more.

Wright Lab assistant professor Laura Newburgh has been developing an innovative technique to calibrate radio telescopes across the world, in particular CHIME in Canada and HIRAX in South Africa, using radio sources attached to hexacopter drones.  Yale’s strong research partnership with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has allowed Newburgh a unique opportunity to collaborate with cosmologists at BNL to field test these drones in calibrating BNL’s experimental prototype radio telescope, called the Baryon Mapping Experiment (BMX). “We enjoy an exciting collaboration where both groups get to learn things,” Newburgh said. “BMX can gain understanding about its polarized beams, we can learn how well our drone calibrator is working, and we are gaining crucial knowledge for the community in planning future 21cm arrays.” Read more.

STAR search

person standing by wall with sign on it.

The hunt continues for a physics phenomenon known as the “chiral magnetic effect” (CME). Physicists from the international STAR Collaboration, based at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, have released the results of a blind analysis of how the strength of the magnetic field generated in certain ion collisions affects the particles streaming out.  “The results represent a significant milestone in our field,” said Helen Caines, a professor of physics at Yale’s Wright Lab and co-spokesperson for STAR. “We believe that they quite possibly represent the most precise heavy ion measurement ever done. We are certain that they will lead to a burst of theoretical activity.”  Read more.

Graduate student Backes builds dark matter detector and community

Backes has been awarded two fellowships by the department and has been very active  in advocacy, service, outreach and educational programs while at Yale.  Read more.

Kelly Backes has been a crucial member of the team developing the HAYSTAC axion dark matter experiment, working with Wright Lab professors Steve Lamoreaux and Reina Maruyama. Backes implemented the first quantum squeezed state receiver system in a particle (astro) physics experiment, bringing together the fields of quantum information and particle physics in an unprecedented way. She designed the RF circuitry that controls the squeezed state receiver, couples it into the RF cavity that is the heart of the detector, and also guides signal paths to the data acquisition system. She wrote the acquisition and analysis software packages to control the squeezed state receiver system and incorporated computational parallelization. Backes also independently developed the software package that will acquire months of continuous dark-matter-sensitive data and control the mechanics of the experiment, including the optimization and alignment protocol for the quantum-limited amplifier system. Her research supervisor says this will be a watershed breakthrough in the axion dark matter field.   Read more.

Maruyama leads COSINE-100 experiment to investigate dark matter mystery

headshot of scientist Astrophysical evidence suggests that the universe contains a large amount of non-luminous dark matter, yet no definite signal of it has been observed despite concerted efforts by many experimental groups. One exception to this is the long-debated claim by the DArk MAtter (DAMA) collaboration, which reports that it has been regularly directly detecting a dark matter signal since 1997 in its sodium-iodide detector array.  COSINE-100, based at an underground, dark-matter detector at the Yangyang Underground Laboratory in South Korea, has been taking data since 2016 to explore DAMA’s claim. COSINE-100 is the first experiment sensitive enough to test DAMA and use the same target material of sodium iodide. Yale Physics and Wright Lab professor Reina Maruyama, the principal investigator of the COSINE-100 experiment, said, “If we don’t see anything, then I think the community can really move on and focus on clearing up the dark matter landscape.” She continued, “If we see a signal? I think we’d really open up the field. And that’s really exciting.”  Read more.

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