ISU physicist to discuss neutrinos and what they tell us about the universe

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A subatomic particle that can change identities will be the focus of an April 6 lecture at Iowa State University. Mayly Sanchez, associate professor of physics, will discuss her research on neutrinos and how they might jump-start future technological advances.

Photo by George Joch, courtesy Argonne National Laboratory.

Sanchez will present “Measuring the Elusive: How to Catch Neutrinos and What They Tell Us About the Universe” on Monday, April 6, at 8 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. The spring 2015 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Lecture is free and open to the public.

Neutrinos rarely interact with matter and have the unique ability to change from one type to another in a phenomenon known as neutrino oscillations. There are at least three types of neutrinos: electron, muon and tau.

Neutrinos are the least understood building block of matter. Sanchez and other researchers are designing experiments to observe them by applying new technologies to extremely large and high-resolution detectors.

“We are pushing the edge of technology to build something that has not been built before,” she said. “The potential impact of trying to do something like this for the first time is part of what makes working as a high energy physicist fun and exciting.”

Sanchez said the technological advances are hard to predict, but could enhance the field of medicine for example.

“The application of new advanced photodetectors with incredibly fast timing resolution could result in better imagining techniques in medicine,” she said. “There has been a long history of contributions from the area of high energy physics to invent and develop technology that eventually make their way into everyday applications that we don’t even think about.”

Sanchez joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2009. She earned a Ph.D. in physics from Tufts University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and a staff scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. She has been awarded an NSF CAREER grant and won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2012.

The Dean’s Lecture Series is coordinated by ISU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and is cosponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the University Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the Government of the Student Body. A reception will follow the lecture.

About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in its community and around the world.

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Contacts: Mayly Sanchez, Physics and Astronomy, ( Laura Wille, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (