High energy physics research in the U.S.

The work of the U.S. Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics (HEP) work is placed under the spotlight here, focussing on their support for high energy physics research and the nature of dark matter

This article will take a glimpse at the work of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) work in high energy physics research. By way of introduction, we know that the aim of the High Energy Physics (HEP) program is to “understand how our universe works at its most fundamental level.” How is this achieved? Well, they do this by “discovering the most elementary constituents of matter and energy, exploring the basic nature of space and time itself, and probing the interactions between them.”

Such fundamental ideas are at the centre of physics and, therefore, all of the physical sciences. HEP supports experimental and theoretical research in both elementary particle physics and fundamental accelerator science and technology so that discoveries can be made. Certainly, HEP supports experimental and theoretical research in both fundamental accelerator science and technology, as well as elementary particle physics. In addition, the HEP website notes that their work advances and underpins the objectives and missions of the DOE by this research, as well as the development of trained manpower and key technologies and trained manpower required to work at the cutting edge of science. (1)

Digging a bit deeper into the work of HEP, it is clear that their work actually explores what the world is made of and how it works, as well as searching for “new discoveries from the tiniest particles to the outer reaches of space.” This work, in the view of HEP, inspires young minds, drives innovation that improves the nation’s health, wealth and security and it trains an expert workforce. The HEP now elaborates on their work in the quotes below about the impact that their research is actually having.

“Our research is inspired by some of the biggest questions about our universe. What is it made of? What forces govern it? How did become the way it is today? Finding these answers requires the combined efforts some of the largest scientific collaborations in the world, using some of the most sensitive detectors in the world, at some of the largest scientific machines in the world.

“We support U.S. researchers that play leading roles in these international efforts and world-leading facilities at our National Laboratories that make this science possible. We also develop new accelerator, detector, and computational tools to open new doors to discovery science, and through Accelerator Stewardship, work to make transformational accelerator technology widely available to science and industry.” (2)

The nature of dark matter

In April this year, the DOE announces new funding of $24 million for the development of new projects to study dark matter, which demonstrates that the above aims are clearly being supported. Projects here will take advantage of important recent advances in technology and theory that will increase our understanding of dark matter. Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar explains his thoughts here on this new funding for dark matter.

“The nature of dark matter remains one of the big, enduring questions of the universe. With new developments in the field over the past few years and the game-changing research being done in the American science community, the time is right for innovative efforts to tackle the problem of dark matter.” (3)

High energy physics research

In June 2019, the DOE announces new funding of $75 million for 66 university research awards on an array of topics in high energy physics to increase our knowledge of how the universe works.

The projects supported here include both experimental and theoretical research into such topics as the Higgs boson, dark matter, dark energy, neutrinos and the search for new physics. Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabba comments on this funding news: “Research in high energy physics not only advances our understanding of the universe, but is also critical to maintaining American leadership in science. These research efforts, at dozens of universities across the nation, will not only yield fresh insights into such problems as dark matter and dark energy but also help build and sustain the nation’s science and technology workforce.”

Projects supported here include the search for dark matter with the LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) experiment one mile below the Black Hills of South Dakota; experimental work on neutrinos at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and; investigation of the Higgs boson from data collected at the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Other funded projects concern particle physics theory, in advanced particle accelerators and in new detector technologies, which scientists will use as they continue to explore the subatomic world. The last word goes to HEP who explain why the field of high energy physics serves as a cornerstone of America’s science endeavours.

“It plays a major role in nurturing top scientific talent and building and sustaining the nation’s scientific workforce. It also provides a deeper understanding of how our universe works at its most fundamental level.” (4)



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