Professor Jocelyn Monroe | Department of Physics
“My why… is solving mysteries, searching for Dark Matter particles and translating experiments into life-changing applications.”
My research is on exploring the properties of Dark Matter particles that make up a large proportion of the universe but we have no idea what they are. This is a big problem in the model of particle physics and we seek to test the theories for what dark matter could be by looking for dark matter interactions in very sensitive experiments.
One way I do this is to look for the wind of Dark Matter particles created by the motion of the Earth through the dark matter in our galaxy. Through studying these problems and properties, we can translate these questions into interesting applications that change the way we interact and live.
I work on an international experiment at SNOLab, in Canada, which is exploring the properties of dark matter by using liquid argon as the sensitive detector. We developed many new techniques to do this experiment, and my undergraduate students here were a big part of that, building parts of the experiment that are operating now.
We are working on applying the dark matter developments in our laboratory for dark matter to an instance where very low radioactivity is required, for example paediatric care, which could lead to new medical tools for children with cancer.
I am also developing ‘new eyes’ for looking at Dark Matter through a project called the DarkSide (yes, working on the dark side!) to build the world’s largest dark matter detector, deep underground in Italy. This will use silicon to develop a new way to look for light signals produced by dark matter interactions with argon, at a much larger scale.This technology to detect a tiny flash of light is applicable to developing self-driving cars that use LIDAR (light detection and ranging) to measure distances.
Connected with this is a new global challenges research project addressing the world-wide issue of lead pollution in water. This will use silicon sensors in new ways to measure low levels of radioactivity, aiming to develop a lead measurement technique that can identify high levels of lead in drinking water. There is an opportunity for transformative breakthroughs in public health if the silicon in your mobile phone camera can be used to detect the presence of lead in your water.
It’s amazing to be part of research that measures what is hard to see and use this to apply to real world problems that we can solve. Through Physics we learn about new phenomena, potentially Dark Matter particles could be radically transformative in ways we can’t even imagine.
Studying Physics at Royal Holloway
As a Physics student at Royal Holloway you’ll have the opportunity to join the global hunt to discover how we interact with Dark Matter particles, and how we will know that Dark Matter reacted in our sensitive detectors. We are developing new kinds of particle detectors here in the department to support this research, and figuring out new applications to real world problems.
As an undergraduate you’ll discover the exciting possibilities there are to look at how things work and how problem solving can lead us to new technology. You will be actively involved in research and lab work, working on experiments that start with ‘Here’s a problem – can we do something clever in the lab to solve this?’ Many of our students go on to do a PhD or work in large companies to become part of a global network working at the frontier of science.