Robert Stringer | Spotlight

On the trail of dark matter, Cal State L.A. physics alum joins would-be proton colliders in Geneva

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CSULA physics alumnus Robert Stringer in front of the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN laboratory, Geneva, Switzerland.

Robert Stringer, a Cal State L.A. alumnus, recently participated in groundbreaking physics experiments that seek to explain the origin of masses of elementary particles and try to clarify just what took place as the universe formed.

Sending protons in opposite directions around a circular track, accelerating them to nearly the speed of light and perhaps hoping the particles will collide magnificently, an international team of scientists—including Stringer—completed the first successful test of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in early September. The collision, however, will have to wait.

Stringer, who received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Cal State L.A., is pursuing his doctorate degree in physics at UC Riverside. Working under UCR faculty, he is supporting the LHC's Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the CERN laboratory. CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, is home of the LHC.

Stringer explained, "I am working on the detector control systems for the CMS tracker, which is the largest silicon-tracking detector ever built. I am also working on an analysis using the Gauge-Mediated SuperSymmetry Breaking (GMSB) model. Specifically, I am looking for neutralino decays to gravitinos, which are dark-matter candidates."

Neutralinos and gravitinos are hypothetical particles of a nearly infinitesimally small order. Dark matter, so called because it neither emits nor reflects detectable electromagnetic radiation, is presumed to exist based on astronomical evidence of its gravitational relevance. Just what constitutes dark matter is a key question of modern physics.

As an undergraduate at Cal State L.A., Stringer conducted research with the CSULA nuclear physics group led by Professors Konrad Aniol, Martin Epstein and Demetrius Margaziotis. He learned collider physics during summer research as part of that project at Jefferson Lab (JLab) in Newport News, Va., where he studied the fundamental properties of matter using electron beams.

"My experience with the nuclear physics group at CSULA, doing real research, was extremely helpful. Also, being able to work at JLab was a great experience that prepared me for working at CERN." — Robert Stringer