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David Schmitz

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Dave Schmitz

Since receiving my PhD in 2008, I have worked at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL, participating in experiments aimed to better understand the neutrino - the lightest, most elusive, yet most abundant particle in the Universe. I am currently part of an effort to construct a new experiment, called MINERvA, which is designed to better understand how neutrinos interact with other matter. What we will learn at MINERvA will advance our understanding of the neutrino itself and greatly improve our ability to interpret results from a variety of future neutrino experiments. I am also interested in a new technique being explored for detecting neutrinos which uses large tanks of liquid argon as in the MicroBooNE project. I should have much more to say about these experiments in future postings.

I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but my family moved to Topeka, Kansas when I was six (a year later the Kansas City Royals played the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series - such conflicting times for a young baseball fan!). Many physicists’ stories begin with, “When I was a kid looking at the stars. . .” or “I’ve been taking things apart to see how they work since I was five. . .” Actually, when I was five I was putting things together - I wanted to be an architect. So after high school I entered the University of Kansas in Lawrence to study architecture and architectural engineering. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I took the modern physics course for engineers - and I was hooked.

I got my first taste of experimental research that year, joining an experiment being performed in Antarctica that was searching for high energy neutrinos being ejected from distant cosmological sources. I knew I was in the right field when it created the opportunity to travel to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 2000. I eventually received my bachelors in Engineering Physics in 2001.

I attended graduate school at Columbia University and worked on another neutrino experiment, MiniBooNE, this time looking for evidence of neutrino oscillations - the idea that different kinds of neutrinos can change into each other and back again. I also worked on the HARP experiment at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, which studied the rates at which different short-lived forms of matter (pions and kaons) are produced when protons collide into various solid targets.

I currently live in the north-side Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Square. It’s a long commute, but I love the neighborhood and can’t bring myself to leave. I discovered it years ago when taking guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music, a major icon in the neighborhood.

Besides physics I enjoy a good book on most any subject, sailing on Lake Michigan in the summer, playing recreational sports with my friends, and playing my guitar as long as no one is around to hear me. About two years ago I took up running and ran my first marathon in October of last year. I’m looking forward (sort of!) to the start of training for this year. I also love to travel and try to never miss an opportunity to go hiking and camping in the mountains or sit on a warm beach somewhere. I can only hope I am fortunate enough to include a posting about that in the near future!