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Astroparticle Physics

Our faculty lead cutting edge research in high-energy and particle astrophysics, to understand the most energetic events in the Universe. Our focus is on three key messengers: cosmic rays, gamma rays and neutrinos.

Cosmic rays: Surrounding the Earth is a constant shower of subatomic particles called cosmic rays. Many originate from our own Sun, but some come from far more distant and mysterious origins. The Telescope Array Project is designed to study the rarest, most mysterious, and highest energy cosmic rays. Over time scientists hope to unravel the nature of these mysterious visitors, their origins, and to uncover new knowledge about the universe. The University of Utah has a long and distinguished history of leading research into these extremely rare and mysterious visitors from space. International collaborations like the Telescope Array Project are helping to ensure the University of Utah remains a world leader in the new and growing field of astroparticle physics.

Gamma-rays: The gamma ray sky brings us information about the most violent phenomenon in the cosmos, from supernovae and their possible role in cosmic ray acceleration to the accretion of material onto super massive black holes in distant galaxies. These highly-energetic photons also can provide insight to the most intriguing questions of astrophysics, such as the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Our faculty are engaged in this research as part of teams that develop and operate the world-class gamma-ray telescopes VERITAS, HAWC, and CTA.

Neutrinos: Born in the cores of collapsing stars or in the strongly curve space-time around black holes, neutrinos are among the highest-energy particles in the Universe. Carsten Rott is part of the IceCube collaboration, which runs a unique neutrino observatory deep in the South Pole ice. IceCube's detection of these nearly massless subatomic particles offers a new window to the Universe and the most catastrophic events within it.


Cosmic Rays Faculty  Gamma Rays Faculty  Neutrinos Faculty

Cosmic Ray Group

Dennis Soldin

Dennis studies cosmic rays at the intersection between astroparticle and elementary particle physics. In particular, he uses data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, as well as other astroparticle and accelerator experiments, to understand high-energy particle processes in extensive air showers that are initiated when a cosmic ray enters the Earth's atmosphere. These studies are crucial to reveal the origin and nature of high-energy cosmic rays.

Forward Physics Facility
Cosmic Ray Research

Charlie Jui

Charlie studies the properties of ultrahigh energy cosmic rays (UHECR). He was a senior member (and acting PI of the Utah group) of the High Resolution Fly's Eye (HiRes) Experiment. The HiRes group published the first observation of the GZK Cut-off in the cosmic ray spectrum predicted in 1965. My analysis of HiRes data was the primary contribution to this discovery. Currently he is co_PI of the Utah group on the Telescope Array (TA) experiment, continuing the study of UHECR with upgraded detectors.

Telescope Array
Cosmic Ray Research

John Belz

John's research interests span the scale from elementary particles to black holes and the origin and fate of the universe. He studies Numerical Relativity, Gamma ray production in lightning, and particle astrophysics with the Telescope Array observatory here in Utah.

Research Website
Cosmic Ray Research

Doug Bergman

Doug studies the spectrum and composition of cosmic rays at the highest energies. How the cosmic rays can have such high energies remains uncertain, but it is thought to involve the most extreme astrophysical environments. We observe the cosmic rays via the extensive air showers produced when they strike the Earth.

Research Website
Cosmic Ray Research

Gamma Ray Astronomy

Qi Feng

Qi’s research is in the field of high-energy and multi-messenger astrophysics, focusing on gamma-ray data and instrumentation. He studies the variability and spectrum of extragalactic sources, primarily active galactic nuclei, to understand the particle acceleration/radiation, the extreme environment in these objects, and explore their connection to astrophysical neutrinos. Qi’s research group is involved in the VERITAS and CTA Collaborations and also works with data from ground-based and space telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum, such as VLBA, Swift, NuSTAR, and Fermi.

Gamma Ray Astronomy/VERITAS

Wayne Springer

Wayne specializes in developing and using instruments to observe the Cosmos. He has investigated the Z boson and searched for the Higgs Boson at CERN and has studies ultra-his energy cosmic rays with the HiRes and Telescope Array cosmic ray observatories in the west desert of Utah. He is currently using the HAWC observatory located on a Mexican volcano to study TeV gamma and cosmic rays from astrophysical sources and to search for Dark Matter.

Willard L. Eccles Observatory
South Physics Observatory

David Kieda

Dave's research focuses on the exploration of the fundamental forces in physics through the measurement of astrophysical objects in extreme settings. He develops techniques and performs observations in high energy gamma-ray astronomy to explore particle acceleration in Galactic objects, such as supernova remnants, micro quasars and high mass e-ray binaries, and active galactic nuclei. He also is leading an effort to develop a new capability for ultra-high angular resolution(<40 micro arc-second) optical imaging of nearby stars using the quantum properties of light. His experimental observations use the ground-based VERITAS, HAWC, CTA, and StarBase-Utah observatories as well as the FERMI, Swift and NuStar satellite observatories.

Gamma Ray Astronomy/VERITAS

Tugdual LeBohec

Stephan studies the possible implications of extending relativity to resolution scale transformations. he also participates in the redevelopment of intensity interferometry for astrophysical observations. Recently he started working on the mechanical and thermal noise characterization of mirrors used in gravitational wave detectors.

Gamma Ray Astronomy/VERITAS

Neutrino Astrophysics

Carsten Rott

Carsten explores the Universe in fundamentally new way using high-energy neutrinos detected with the IceCube Neutrino Telescope. In particular he is interested in searching for signatures of new physics associated with the high-energy neutrinos. Carsten also searches for new phenomena with the JSNS2 experiment and is a participant of the COSINE Dark Matter search and Hyper-Kamiokande.

Research Experiences for Undergrads

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah offers a research experience program in physics and astronomy that allows undergraduate students to work closely with a faculty mentor and their research group on an individual project.

All interested students are invited to apply for this 10-week summer program.

Learn More