During his last two years at Fermilab, Matthew Toups has played a critical role on a number of the lab’s neutrino detection experiments. His hard work and dedication has earned him the 2015 Tollestrup Award.
Each year, the Universities Research Association presents the Tollestrup Award to a postdoctoral researcher at Fermilab who conducted outstanding work in collaboration with Fermilab scientists. According to Daniel Whiteson, chair of the award committee, Toups received this year’s award for his contributions to the liquid-argon-based short-baseline neutrino program at Fermilab, including MicroBooNE and the Short Baseline Near Detector (formerly known as LAr1-ND).
“I’m ecstatic. Alvin Tollestrup was a great experimentalist, so to be given an award in his name means a lot,” Toups said.
“Alvin Tollestrup has set a very high standard, and URA is pleased to present this award in his name to Dr. Toups for his outstanding research,” said Marta Cehelsky, executive director of URA.
Toups’ main roles have been to co-lead the commissioning of MicroBooNE, a 170-ton liquid-argon time projection chamber (TPC), and develop ways to collect the ultraviolet light produced from interactions of high-energy particles with atoms in liquid-argon TPCs.
Measuring signals from the light release is critical for determining the moment when an interaction between a neutrino and an argon atom occurred. During his first year at Fermilab, Toups built and installed a system for collecting ultraviolet light for MicroBooNE. Using this knowledge, he is currently working to design a next-generation light-collection system for SBND.
“At this point, Matt is a world leader on light collection in liquid argon, which is why he was chosen as the co-leader of the detector commissioning,” said Janet Conrad, Toups’ advisor and an MIT professor working on MicroBooNE. “He has been able to handle all sorts of surprises and has overall been an absolutely outstanding postdoc.”
MicroBooNE is just the beginning — liquid-argon technology is central to many of Fermilab’s current and future neutrino detection experiments.
“The hope is that we can take what we learned in MicroBooNE and build something even better for the near detector, which can then be used as a test bed for the long-baseline experiment, DUNE,” Toups said.