The Unsolved Mystery of Dark Matter
Thursday, Oct 15th 12pm – 1:30pm
Department of Physics, UC Berkeley
Dr. Sinéad Griffin
Staff Scientist, Molecular Foundry, Materials Science Division
Dark matter is one of the grandest unsolved mysteries in physics. What is it? What is it made of? How does it interact with “normal” matter? At this Midday Science Café, you’ll learn about two projects that explore the nature of dark matter, one of the most pressing questions in contemporary physics. Vetri Velan will explore how experimental particle physicists are trying to search for dark matter here on Earth. Or, more precisely, under the Earth. Sinéad Griffin will discuss how scientists are taking a new approach to searching for dark matter by designing materials specifically suited to detect dark matter.
Vetri Velan is a PhD candidate in Physics at UC Berkeley, studying the use of liquid noble elements (helium and xenon) for the detection of dark matter. One of the experiments he works on is the Large Underground Xenon experiment, which was located a mile underground in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in what used to be the deepest gold mine on the continent. (Listen to his presentation to learn why!) Although suiting up for the 10-minute ride down the mineshaft is fun, he also enjoys working at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he develops new detector technologies and works to optimize existing detectors. Aside from physics, Vetri is passionate about science policy. He advocates for inclusion of scientific knowledge to guide public policy and for equitable structures within which science can be done. Some issues that he has worked on include taxation of graduate students, federal research funding, and genetically-engineered agricultural policy. In his free time, Vetri enjoys listening to podcasts, exploring the Bay Area, and reminiscing about pizza from his home state of New Jersey.
Dr. Sinéad Griffin is a staff scientist in the Materials Science Division and the Molecular Foundry at Berkeley Lab. Originally from Ireland, her work as a theorist focuses on the description and discovery of quantum materials and physical phenomena at the nanoscale using quantum mechanical calculations. The applications of Sinéad’s work range from new materials for energy and quantum computing to exploring dark matter and the origins of the universe. Her awards include the Swiss Physical Society’s General Prize (2018), an MIT Rising Star in Physics (2018), an ‘Emerging Leader’ from the Institute of Physics (2020), was selected as an early-career awardee at Berkeley Lab. Aside from her research, she is involved with building a research network in condensed matter physics in Africa, and earlier this year was awarded an inaugural American Physical Society Innovation Fund grant to set up a US-Africa Workshop and Network.
Brought to you by UC Berkeley’s Science at Cal and Berkeley Lab’s Government & Community Relations Office, “Midday Science Cafe” is a new virtual series that highlights compelling and complementary scientific research from both institutions. Grab your lunch and join us for some great science and discussion; questions are encouraged! This webinar will be recorded. If you require captioning to access a pre-recorded event, please contact Dione Rossiter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please expect 7-10 days for captioning to be provided.