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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

High-school students make an impact in Argonne National Laboratory’s collaborative efforts on Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment

Advancements in the multi-lab DUNE experiment by science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) researchers and students at Argonne will help scientists better understand neutrinos and the universe as a whole.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is proud to contribute to the ongoing Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). This international, multi-billion-dollar project, encompassing multiple national laboratories, brings researchers from around the world together to investigate one of the universe’s true mysteries: the nature of neutrinos.

Some of the youngest of the hundreds of researchers on the DUNE experiment are high school students at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). Each year, IMSA partners with the lab for a yearlong research experience, and some students have participated in DUNE-related projects for multiple years.

DUNE will encompass decades-worth of data from countless contributors. So it is appropriate for high school students to have the chance to work on DUNE’s early stages, and possibly see the results come out as they progress through their careers.” — Maury Goodman, Argonne physicist

For the annual IMSAloquium event at the end of the internship, Diego Michel presented his research on potential decay limits for DUNE. (Image by Azucena Rodriguez.)

Argonne is part of an ongoing, collaborative experiment across multiple national labs to produce what will be the world’s largest particle detector of its kind for DUNE. The main goal of DUNE is to look at long-baseline neutrino oscillations, or how these infinitesimal subatomic particles with no electric charge transform over time,” explained IMSA student Smriti Shankar. Understanding neutrinos will help us understand more about not only stars and space in general, but about the very start of the universe.”

For the IMSAloquium, Smriti Shankar presented research on data she collected from the ProtoDUNE detector, which she used to find new ways to identify different particle species. (Image by Azucena Rodriguez.)

Shankar began working with data from a DUNE prototype in conjunction with researchers from Argonne two years ago, and she decided to continue her research this year so she could carry on her unfinished work in particle identification methods. My project came to a premature end last year, so I wanted to improve on what I had already done,” she said.

This year, Shankar succeeded in reaching a preliminary conclusion by using different types of light signals to better identify particles. This experiment can be easily replicated with more data points, so it can potentially be used when the DUNE detector begins taking data,” she said.

This fall, Smriti Shankar will start studying electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. (Image by Smriti Shankar.)

Over the course of two years of research at the lab, DUNE has broadened the horizons of IMSA student Diego Michel, who has researched potential ways that particles can decay in DUNE while also surveying the vast possibilities of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research. This research has helped me get a hands-on take on science that I’d never have been able to get otherwise,” he said. I also got to look at one of the frontiers of modern physics, which has helped me grow in the direction I want and develop into my full potential as a STEM researcher.”

After high school, Michel intends to study physics in college, while also planning to stay engaged on the frontier of physics research. Shankar — who graduates from high school this year — plans to study electrical and computer engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute this fall. As an engineer, I hope to be involved in future cutting-edge physics experiments,” Shankar said. Leaving Argonne, my interests have developed into paths that I don’t intend to let go of. I’m now surer than ever that STEM is right for me.”

Each experiment and advancement with DUNE helps move the project forward step by step, including the achievements by IMSA students. DUNE will encompass decades of data from countless contributors,” said Argonne physicist Maury Goodman, who has mentored some of the students conducting research for DUNE. So it is appropriate for high school students to have the chance to work on DUNE’s early stages, and possibly see the results come out as they progress through their careers.”

Funding for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment is provided by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of High Energy Physics.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.