Ryan Patterson receives prestigious DOE award

Ryan Patterson

The NOvA project will employ new detector technology to study neutrinos, and Ryan Patterson wants to get the most out of that technology as possible.

Patterson, assistant professor of physics at Caltech and NOvA collaborator, is a recipient of the DOE Early Career Research Award for his research proposal titled, “Developing novel techniques for readout, calibration and event selection in the NOvA long-baseline neutrino experiment.” The financial award will provide five years of funding for Patterson to carry out this work.

The overarching goal of NOvA is to learn about neutrinos, which are among the most abundant particles in the universe. Given their neutral charge and the low rate at which they interact with matter, they are difficult to detect. Neutrinos exist in three flavors (electron, muon and tau) and are able to morph from one flavor to another, a process known as oscillation. The NOvA Far Detector site, located 500 miles from Fermilab, was chosen to maximize the chance of detecting electron neutrinos in the initially muon neutrino beam. NOvA collaborators will use the data they collect to better understand the oscillation phenomenon and neutrino properties in general.

With this new funding, Patterson aims to develop a better understanding of the capabilities of the NOvA detector technology. He also plans to design advanced approaches for calibration and electronics readout as well as new techniques for extracting the desired neutrino interactions from the collected data.

Since only 65 awards were granted to a pool of 1,150 applicants, Patterson, who applied for the first time this year, was excited to hear he was selected.

“Funding is tight in particle physics and in science in general,” Patterson said. “Having an opportunity to fund this work is a very nice thing.”

— Christine Herman