University at Albany

LUX and the Underground People

Numerous astrophysical observations, such as the velocity of stars revolving around the centers of galaxies, the gravitational bending of light, and the variations in the Cosmic Microwave Background (the “echo” of the Big Bang), have clearly established the presence of gravitationally interacting, non-luminous matter we call dark matter. From these observations it has also been established that most of the matter in the universe is in this form. Several experiments are currently underway to directly detect dark matter on the earth.

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment currently holds the record as the most sensitive direct detection dark matter experiment. Rick Gaitskell, co-spokesperson of LUX, and Brown University Professor, commented, that “LUX’s latest dark matter results paper in the prestigious Physics Review Letters has now reached the hallowed territory of over 1,000 citations on Inspire, the High Energy Physics publications database.” Though it has found no evidence yet for particle dark matter, it has the greatest potential for discovery. The LUX experiment operates 4,850 feet below the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in the same cavern where Prof. Ray Davis performed his Nobel Prize winning solar neutrino flux experiment in the late 1960s. This facility is in Lead, South Dakota, at the site of the former Homestake gold mine.

Prof. Matthew Szydagis of the Department of Physics at the University at Albany has been a collaborator on LUX (Large Underground Xenon experiment) since 2010, before he joined the faculty here, and he has made a myriad of contributions to the collaboration with analysis, simulation, and on-site presence.

Prof. Matthew Szydagis, right, and Dr. Jeremy Mock his current postdoc at UAlbany, left, standing in front of the titanium cryostat housing the liquid xenon, before the water tank shield was filled up, back in 2013. On location in Lead, South Dakota, at the -4,850-foot-level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility. (Photo credit: Matt Kapust, Sanford Lab.)

Professor Szydagis recently hosted a week-long analysis workshop and collaboration meeting on campus October 19-23, 2015. This meeting was an instrumental face-to-face for establishing momentum to analyze both WIMP search and calibration data collected in 2015.

LUX collaboration members present at UAlbany for the meeting this past October. UAlbany professor Matthew Szydagis in the back on the left, with co-spokesperson Prof. Richard Gaitskell of Brown University to his left, and co-spokesperson Prof. Daniel McKinsey of the University of California Berkeley at lower right. The group includes other faculty, national laboratory staff including senior and junior research scientists, postdocs, and graduate students from 17 institutions from around the nation and around the world. (Photo credit: Doug Tiedt, graduate student, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.)