Laura Fields is new MINERvA co-spokesperson

Laura Fields

Since it began taking data in 2009, the MINERvA collaboration has published roughly 20 papers on neutrino-nucleus interactions. It’s a strong, promising start for the experiment, and scientist Laura Fields, who started her new two-year term as MINERvA co-spokesperson on March 17, intends to keep up the momentum.

Fields offers kudos to current MINERvA co-spokesperson, Fermilab scientist Debbie Harris, and her predecessor, University of Rochester scientist Kevin McFarland, for the experiment’s success.

“The previous spokespeople put the experiment on a really good path,” Fields said, half-joking that “my first goal is not to break all the good things they’ve done.”

In addition to continuing the push to publish, Fields will work to help finish MINERvA’s current data-taking run, which uses the medium-energy NuMI beam at Fermilab to produce neutrino interactions in the detector. In previous years, MINERvA used a low-energy NuMI beam.

“It’s really a boon for MINERvA,” Fields said. With a higher-energy beam, scientists get more neutrino interactions. “We can get a lot of good stuff out of that data.”

Fields received her Ph.D. from Cornell University under the supervision of Ritchie Patterson and, in 2010, went on to complete a Northwestern University postdoc under professor Heidi Schellman (now at Oregon State University) conducting research for MINERvA and DUNE. Fields led the team that published the experiment’s first two papers in 2013. In 2015, she joined Fermilab as an associate scientist in the Scientific Computing Division.

“Laura has been crucial to MINERvA’s physics program since she joined the experiment as a postdoc,” McFarland said. “She has been an effective mentor to so many of MINERvA’s students.”

Indeed, as co-spokesperson, Fields will work to actively support MINERvA’s early-career researchers by making sure their work is showcased in experiment publications.

“I’m looking forward to interacting more with the students and postdocs of MINERvA and to helping them get all we can out of our data,” she said. “I’m also going to work to be a good role model for the women in our collaboration.”

With Fields’ election as MINERvA’s co-spokesperson, both of Fermilab’s operating short-baseline neutrino experiments are now led by women. The MINERvA experiment is led by Fields and Harris, and the MicroBooNE experiment is led by Yale University-Fermilab scientist Bonnie Fleming and Fermilab scientist Sam Zeller.

“I am looking forward to the day when it will not be a big deal for there to be two women spokespersons of an experiment,” Harris said. “In the meantime I am enjoying the buzz about this and grateful to Kevin for deciding to step down in order to let a new person with new ideas lead the collaboration.”

McFarland said he feels the same way about his successor.

“As one of my hometown’s heroes famously said, ‘Failure is impossible.’ Susan B. Anthony said this not as a statement of optimism, but because she knew with certainty that all factors pointed to the eventual success of her cause,” McFarland said. “With MINERvA’s rich data set and Laura leading us, I feel the same way about the success of MINERvA’s physics program.”