David W. Schmitz
Associate Professor of Physics
The University of Chicago
Department of Physics, The Enrico Fermi Institute, and The College
University of Chicago

As an experimental particle physicist, I want to understand the basic building blocks that make up our universe and the physical laws that govern how it behaves. It's incredible to me that by exploring subtle properties of fundamental matter in experiments here on Earth, we can help piece together a detailed understanding of the history of our universe back to its very earliest moments 13.7 billion years ago. We currently know of 12 fundamental matter particles (6 quarks and 6 leptons) and 4 forces that act on them (electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces). The detailed properties that we have managed to measure in experiments and the precise mathematical theory that describes the interactions between these particles are together known as the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

My research focuses on better understanding the neutrinos, listed as νe, νμ, and ντ in the diagram to the right. Neutrinos are the most abundant known matter particles in the universe, outnumbering protons, neutrons and electrons by a factor of a billion. They only interact through the most feeble of the four forces, the weak nuclear force, making them a challenge to detect and study, but also making them unique probes of new physics and potential messengers from across the cosmos.

For much more on my group's research, please see our site at neutrino.uchicago.edu

Current research:

  • One primary effort at the moment is on the Fermilab Short-Baseline Neutrino (SBN) program (website, proposal) including the Short-Baseline Near Detector (SBND), MicroBooNE, and the ICARUS detector as the SBN Far Detector.

  • We are also collaborating on a test beam effort known as LArIAT (Liquid Argon in a Test Beam). In LArIAT we placed a small liquid argon TPC into a well characterized charged particle beam at Fermilab to make precise measurements of the response to known particle inputs and to measure important hadronic interaction cross sections on Ar.

  • Our efforts on the SBN and LArIAT programs are well aligned with our future goals of realizing the DUNE long-baseline neutrino experiment that seeks to determine, among other things, if neutrinos and antinuetrinos behave differently. If they do, then neutrinos may help us understand why our universe if made up of matter and not antimatter, a major unaswered question in physics today! DUNE will make the most precise measurements of neutrino oscillations to date and be sensitive to neutrinos from an exploding supernova in the galaxy.

Past research:

  • Before coming to the University of Chicago, I was a Leon M. Lederman Fellow at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory working on the MINERvA neutrino experiment.

  • I received my Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2008 based on my research with the MiniBooNE neutrino oscillation experiment at Fermilab and the HARP hadron production experiment at CERN. My Ph.D. dissertation can be found here. (plots CVS)
    "A measurement of hadron production cross sections for the simulation of accelerator neutrino beams and a search for muon neutrino to electron neutrino oscillations in the mass-squared ~ 1 eV^2 region"

University of Chicago Department of Physics Enrico Fermi Institute