Alumnus to return to campus Nov. 16 to discuss breakthrough physics research

November 15, 2017 | Events, UToday, Alumni, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Staff

Dr. Robert Cooper will visit his alma mater Thursday, Nov. 16, and talk about the cutting-edge physics research he and graduate students at New Mexico State University are conducting.

He will discuss “Observation of Coherent Elastic Neutrino-Nucleus Scattering” at the UT Physics and Astronomy Colloquium at 4 p.m. in McMaster Hall Room 1005.


The assistant professor of physics at New Mexico State University is among 80 researchers from 19 institutions and four nations working on the COHERENT experiment, which investigated a 43-year-old mystery.

Since 2015, Cooper and company have been attempting to measure coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This process has eluded detection despite a standard model prediction for the low-energy particles that only interact via weak subatomic force and gravity.

“This situation is akin to measuring the momentum transferred by a pingpong ball colliding with a bowling ball,” Cooper explained.

Using the smallest neutrino detector on the planet, researchers recorded the first measurement of coherent scattering of neutrinos off nuclei. They published their results in the August issue of Science.

“This measurement capability has applications to help understand supernovae, nuclear structure, neutrino oscillations and nuclear reactor monitoring,” Cooper said.

“We are proud to welcome back Robert Cooper to campus to hear more about his role in the exciting frontier of particle physics,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy; and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. 

Cooper received a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics from The University of Toledo in 2002. He studied particle physics at the University of Michigan, where he received a doctorate in 2008.

For more information on the free, public colloquium, contact Dr. Scott Lee, UT professor of physics, at or 419.530.4779.

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