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John Felde

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John Felde

I am a graduate student in the High Energy Physics group at the University of California, Davis.  Although a large fraction of our faculty and students work on the collider experiments at Fermilab and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, there is a small contingent of us who work on experimental neutrino physics.   Our group works on the Double Chooz reactor neutrino experiment, and the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, LBNE.  The goal of the Double Chooz experiment is to measure the last unknown neutrino mixing angle, theta_13, the value of which is of profound importance to LBNE.

I came to UC Davis as an undergraduate student in 2002 and have been associated with the Physics department in some way ever since.  I graduated with a degree in physics in 2006 and accepted a staff position with the department's teaching labs, where I got to build and maintain the experiments used in the undergraduate labs.  The next year I was accepted into the graduate program to pursue a Ph. D.

When people ask me why I study neutrinos I never really have a good answer, much like I don't know why my favorite color is blue.  I first got interested in particle physics in the late 90's and I remember hearing a lot of excitement about results on neutrino oscillations from the Super Kamiokande and SNO experiments.  Although I was hopelessly confused at the time as to what these results meant, the excitement and wonder about these mysterious particles must have stuck.

Around the summer of 2009 my adviser asked me to start working on simulation studies for a new long-baseline neutrino experiment, which became known as LBNE.  At one point we tried to choose a new name for the experiment. But the vote ended in a near three-way tie, and we decided to just forgo deciding on a name for now. 

The simulation I work on is for the large Water Cherenkov detector option, which is much like the Super Kamiokande detector in Japan.  My focus is on the low-energy physics that can be done with such a detector, and in particular, the prospects for detecting the diffuse background of about 10 MeV neutrinos from all Type-II Supernovae throughout the history of the universe.

So far my experiences in LBNE have been unique.  I was the first graduate student to work on this experiment, a neat accolade if the experiment continues, and was the only graduate student for the first six months or so.  It is fun to be involved with an experiment at such an early stage.  The studies I do have a real impact on the design of the experiment.  I also enjoy meeting and chatting with the professors who all tell great stories of working on previous experiments.

When I am not thinking about neutrinos, I enjoy playing sports, walking my dog, Oliver, and watching movies.  Students in the physics department do a great job of organizing sport teams.  I play on the soccer, basketball, and softball teams.  Our cleverly chosen softball team name is “The Bad News Bosons.” However, it is more difficult than one might expect to explain what a boson is to the other team.