Deep Lab, Dark Matter, and Dying Stars

Portrait of Stephen Sekula from SNOLAB, 2022

Stephen Sekula

Professor in the Particle Astrophysics Group
Research Group Manager in the Research Division at SNOLAB

I am Professor Physics at Queen's University on secondment to SNOLAB in Sudbury to serve as the Research Group Manager in the Reseach Division. While I am primarily working on management activities that facilitate the SNOLAB research program, I also conduct my own research as part of the PICO and HALO Collaborations. PICO is a bubble-chamber-based technology designed to search for lower-mass dark matter candidates, and benefits from a strong involvement from faculty, students, and other researchers at Queen's University. HALO is a neutrino detection technology designed for exceptional up time so that it can watch for, and detect, the neutrino blast wave from a dying star. This allows HALO to alert astronomical instruments across the globe of the forthcoming light from the explosion.

I recently joined the nEXO Collaboration in 2023. nEXO is a next-generation experiment that aims to search for an ultra-rare process: neutrinoless double-beta decay. If observed, this process can tell us about the neutrino's mass and the arrangement of neutrino masses in nature (which are heavier and lighter).


The Friendly Physics Guide to Nuclear and Particle Physics in Modern Medicine: The Core of Newton's Apple: Volume Two by [Stephen Jacob Sekula]Reality in the Shadows [or] What the Heck's the Higgs by [S. James Gates Jr., Frank Blitzer, Stephen Jacob Sekula]In addition to my research, I have taught a range of courses across university levels, including introductory physics, relativity, quantum physics, honors levels of physics courses, a special seminar on quantum spin for graduate students, and even a teaching practicum for graduate students. I am also an author, including a series of books called “The Friendly Physics Guide to … ” and a book co-authored with Frank Blitzer and S. James Gates, Jr. entitled “Reality in the Shadows (or) What the Heck’s the Higgs?”

I joined the faculty at Queen's University in the fall of 2022. From 2009 to summer of 2022, I was a Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at SMU in Dallas, TX. I served as the Chair of the Department of Physics at SMU from 2020-2022. My focus then was on the the Higgs particle. I was a member of the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) Collaboration, which operated the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, a research facility hosted by the CERN Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. I focused on the interactions of the Higgs particle with the second-heaviest building block of matter, the bottom quark, to learn what it can teach us about the origin of the universe. I participated in two major discoveries about the Higgs particle: the measurement of its spin-parity quantum numbers using Higgs decays to four leptons (particles like the electron) and the first ever observation of the Higgs directly interacting with quarks. I also served as a leader in the community of nuclear and particle physicists engaged in planning for the Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. I studied the identification of quark-initiated jets in the context of the ATHENA (A Totally Hermetic Electron-Nucleus Apparatus) proto-collaboration.

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