STFC Experimental Particle Physics 2018 Consolidated Grant

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Mathematical & Physical Sciences


The Sussex Experimental Particle Physics (EPP) group counts eleven academic faculty members and focuses on the following main research areas:
- the exploration of the Energy Frontier (using the ATLAS experiment, ATLAS Upgrades, future opportunities at colliders)
- Neutrino Physics (using the SNO+, NOVA, DUNE, SBND, and JSNS2 experiments)
- liquid argon-based direct matter searches (with the DEAP/DarkSide experiments)
- precision measurements of the neutron electric dipole moment (the nEDM experiment).
The group participates in GridPP and Sussex hosts a certified Grid Tier-2 computing cluster.

At ATLAS, we search for physics beyond the current understanding of particle physics. We study in detail the particle interactions to verify our current understanding, but also look for evidence of new processes. This includes the search for Dark Matter - the matter that seems to exist in the Universe but has not been observed or is accounted for in our current models describing our understanding of matter. We will continue to lead on analysis and the trigger (which makes fast real-time decisions about what data is important and should be kept) at the upcoming LHC luminosity upgrades. In parallel with the exploitation of ATLAS and the ATLAS upgrade work, we will maintain a low-level involvement in R&D and physics studies for possible future colliders, aiming to further deepen our understanding of matter and the Universe.

We also search directly for Dark Matter by building and operating experiments to try and observe Dark Matter interacting directly inside these experiments. We are involved in the DEAP-3600 experiment in Canada. The international community in direct detection searches using liquid argon has come together to put its weight behind the DarkSide-20k experiment, which will provide the best sensitivity that is currently technically possible.

The neutrino has already provided some unexpected surprises and its study promises to answer fundamental questions about the nature of matter. At SNO+, we search for rare decays that could reveal the fundamental nature of neutrinos. At NOvA, we hope to better understand the extremely small masses of neutrinos and test whether matter and anti-matter perhaps behave in different ways. This study will be continued at the DUNE (a future, large-scale liquid-argon experiment). The combination of the studies at the SNO+ and DUNE/NOvA experiments has the potential to explain one of science's biggest questions to date: why is the Universe currently made out of matter and why is there no anti-matter any more?

There have been some hints that there are more than the three neutrinos that we so far know about. The SBND experiment will look for evidence for new neutrinos and allow us to build up direct experience with the technology for the future DUNE experiment. The JSNS2 experiment will provide a direct test of previous (but disputed) observations of extra neutrinos, but with significantly fewer backgrounds and better detector technology. It also provides a good test-bed for liquid scintillator detector technology and optical calibration developments.

The nEDM experiment studies the properties of neutrons with exquisite precision, complementing the ATLAS, neutrino and dark matter programmes by looking in a completely different way for evidence of a difference in behaviour between matter and antimatter.

We participate in experiments through the analysis of data and contributions to technical deliverables. This builds skills among our PhD students and our researches and these developments have led to strong impact. We will continue to do this, in particular in the area of Artificial Intelligence, exploiting techniques that we use in our research. We will continue to actively interact with local industry and forge stronger links. Furthermore, we will bring our research to schools, teachers and the general public in innovative ways on a local, national and international level.

Planned Impact

Even after the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, many important questions remain in particle physics: Why is the Universe almost entirely made of matter and not anti-matter? What is Dark Matter? The Sussex Experimental Particle Physics group (EPP) focuses on addressing these fundamental questions by looking for new physics at the ATLAS experiment at the LHC and studying the behaviour of neutrinos and neutrons. We are also looking to the future, with leadership in building detectors for future colliders and direct observation of Dark Matter.

EPP is committed to sharing the knowledge and skills generated by excellent research with a broad range of audiences, such as young people, the general public, and with industry and policy makers. In this, we are actively supported by our unit's outreach officer and innovation partner for our engagement with industry.

The group is passionate to inspire young people with STEM. Our strategy includes giving interactive and motivational outreach talks, at schools or events at the university, such as Particle Physics Masterclasses for A-level and GCSE students. We will work with teachers in the South-East by deepening their understanding of particle physics and giving them ideas for classroom activities. We will actively support local schools to participate in the HiSPARC project, where students build, operate and analyse data from a cosmic ray telescope at their school.

We will share our research with the general public by giving public talks at the University and in the local area, enhancing the public's understanding of the world and why fundamental research is important. We will participate in local events and festivals using stands with activities that describe scientific concepts in a fun and engaging way, building on previous successes such as utilizing our cloud chamber, displays and cuddly toy particles that people (esp. children) can play with. We will promote science in innovative ways to access new audiences. For example, a member of our group organised two specially decorated buses, one with an astrophysics and one with a particle physics theme to run through Brighton and Hove for a year. The buses give detailed information about our research and allow the public to interact directly with scientists.

We will actively bring our skills and know-how to local companies and strongly support our PhD students to commercialise the results of their research. For example, we developed optical technology that is now used to develop new materials. Through our data-intensive research, our students and researchers will become highly skilled in data analysis and the scientific method. A significant proportion of our students move on to successful careers in these fields. We will be setting up a company to share our knowledge in artificial intelligence to enhance internet security with industry. And we are key members of a consortium in the South-East of the UK to work with industry to develop better detectors to detect radioactivity. In this consortium, we will train PhD students and with our support, the local industry can develop better instruments for border security and medical applications.

Working with our innovation partner we will use our expertise and connections to meet the UK's Industrial Challenges set by the government. We will use our expertise in radiation detection and data analysis to address problems in the Global Challenges. For example, our expertise detecting low-levels of radioactivity can be used to quickly and cheaply detect pollutants in food. We will engage more directly with government by making use of pairing schemes, sharing our viewpoints and bringing science to policy makers.

In summary, we will increase our impact by strengthening current industrial partnerships, developing new ones, reaching out further to new audiences, and supporting innovative approaches in converting technology to address national and international issues.


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