Students help build neutrino detector during US research trip

Max Calle, Dominic Cross, and Shengtang Yi spent two weeks working at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Large tower building located at the end of a body of water
Wilson Hall at Fermilab (credit: Stephen Hanafin / CC BY-SA 2.0)

A group of University of Sheffield physics students got the chance to help build a new neutrino detector just outside Chicago during time off from their studies.

Dr Matthew Malek, Senior Lecturer in Experimental Particle Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is part of the Accelerator Neutrino-Nucleus Interaction Experiment (ANNIE).

He arranged for third year undergraduates Max Calle, Dominic Cross, and Shengtang Yi to spent two weeks working on the project at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

The students were involved in helping set up a new neutrino detector that will sit in the Fermilab Booster Neutrino Beam and measure neutrino cross-sections and neutron multiplicity in neutrino interactions.

Their duties included constructing a clean room where parts for the detector can be assembled, testing the photomultiplier tubes that will be used to detect the light emitted after a neutrino interaction and assembling parts of the detector itself.

Dr Malek, said: "In addition to having the opportunity to work at one of the world’s foremost particle physics laboratories, they were able to sample the experience of being a particle physicist and practically supplement the material taught in in their particle physics module.

"Their efforts were also valued by the ANNIE collaboration, as they made real contributions to the project."

ANNIE’s first test phase began in 2016, but now scientists on the project are working towards the first experimental run of the 26 tonne water Cherenkov detector.

These detectors are commonly used in large-scale neutrino experiments, such as the T2K experiment in Japan and the new WATCHMAN nuclear security initiative.

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