Associate 2022-23

Anne Sickles


Studying the Quark-Gluon Plasma with sPHENIX 

Sickles imageQuarks and gluons are not normally observed because of a property of the strong force called confinement, which keeps them normally bound within protons and neutrons. One way of studying the strong force is to collide nuclei together with enough energy to liberate the quarks and gluons from their bound states. These collisions result in the formation of quark-gluon plasma (QGP). It is the highest temperature matter created in the laboratory, and it can be created at Brookhaven National Lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). These collisions make drops of QGP which live for a short time and then cool into normal matter. A major outstanding question is why they behave as a nearly perfect fluid. Over the last seven years, Professor Sickles and her research group have worked to design, test, and construct the electromagnetic calorimeter, a sub-detector of sPHENIX, which can measure the jets formed by very energetic quarks and gluons. 

The commissioning process prepares a new detector to take data. sPHENIX commissioning will take place during Spring 2023. During her CAS appointment, Professor Sickles will be at Brookhaven for initial data taking. The success of this is a key part of the University of Illinois Physics program, as data from this detector will lead to several papers and provide theses for multiple graduate students.