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Ghostly Particles Featured at Next STEM Café

September 29th, 2017

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) is one of the world’s largest and most fascinating scientific investigations, and it’s happening in our own backyard. At the next STEM Café, NIU physics associate professor Michael Eads will explore the mysteries of neutrinos and explain how DUNE seeks to understand these tiny, enigmatic particles.

The STEM Café will take place 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Eduardo’s Mexican Restaurant in DeKalb.

Eads is part of a team of NIU physicists who began contributing to DUNE in 2015. This international project – which broke ground in July 2017 – will consist of two neutrino detectors, one at each end of the world’s most intense beam of neutrinos. One detector will be located near the neutrino generator at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, just a 35-minute drive from NIU’s DeKalb campus. The other much larger detector will be installed deep underground at the Sanford Underground Research Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota – 800 miles downstream of the source.

“The goal of this experiment,” Eads says, “is to better understand neutrinos – one of the fundamental particle building blocks of our universe and the least understood particle of the standard model of particle physics.”

“Neutrinos may hold the key to answering very fundamental questions about the universe we live in, such as why the universe today is made up almost entirely of matter with very little antimatter present,” he added.

Eads, who earned his undergraduate degree at NIU before going on to earn an NIU master’s degree and Ph.D., has been conducting research in particle physics at Fermilab since he was an undergraduate student.

“I grew up in a small town in northwest Illinois (about an hour west of DeKalb),” he says, “and am still often amazed by what I get to do for a living.”

Eads is looking forward to introducing the audience to some of the fundamental questions of contemporary particle physics. “Particle physics is all about understanding the world around us at the most basic level,” he says. “There is a lot we understand about the fundamental particles that make up the universe and how they interact with each other, but there are also some very important things we don’t know.”

This event is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of monthly STEM Cafés, which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks are available for purchase from Eduardo’s.

The STEM Café series is just one of the many engaging events STEM Outreach hosts to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in our everyday lives.

For more information, call 815-753-4751 or email jdymond@niu.edu.

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