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Nicole Larsen

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Nicole Larsen

I am a PhD student at Yale University in experimental particle astrophysics working on the Large Underground Xenon experiment. LUX is a xenon-based dark matter direct detection experiment located 4850 feet underground in the old Homestake mine in South Dakota. I also work on Particle Identification in Xenon at Yale (PIXeY), a smaller xenon-based experiment that uses many of the same technologies for the detection and imaging of radioactive materials.

I always wanted to be a physicist, but the thing that got me into this particular subfield was a little pie chart that I found in a magazine article in the early 2000s about dark matter, dark energy, and the constituents of the universe. According to this pie chart, the universe is made up of 25% dark matter, which has yet to be directly observed, and 70% dark energy, which we know even less about. The wedge representing ordinary matter was so tiny and pathetic-looking in comparison—it completely blew my mind! The fact that we know next to nothing about 95% of the universe struck me as one of the biggest and most fundamental questions in all of science, and I've been more or less thinking about it ever since.

To this end, I majored in Physics and Applied Mathematics as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech and, upon graduation, moved to Yale and joined the LUX group. Although I do hope to get back to the South someday, I am very much enjoying life in Connecticut and in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Outside of physics, my main interests are cooking, eating, and running (to burn off everything I cook and eat!). I'm currently training for my first marathon, and I couldn't be happier. I love the outdoors—South Dakota is a lovely place for swimming and hiking—and I've recently gotten bit by the travel bug, so I've made a resolution to visit one new country every year until I either start a family or run out of money, whichever comes first. I am very excited to be a part of Quantum Diaries, and I look forward to representing the world of non-collider particle physics!