Physicists from several different states and countries gathered at Wichita State University this week in part of the NOvA Collaboration, a project that is working to understand a subatomic particle known as the neutrino.
“Neutrinos are one type of fundamental particle,” said Holger Meyer, an Associate Professor and Director of Physics at WSU. “They are a little bit exotic and are produced in nuclear interactions and radioactive decays.”
It was discovered about 20 years ago that there are three different types of neutrinos that exist and they are able to change identities from one type to another. They are also able to pass through matter with virtually no interaction.
“It’s particularly interesting because it might actually be part of the explanation why there’s more matter than antimatter,” said Meyer. “Why you and me and everything that’s made of matter exist and hasn’t been annihilated by antimatter.”
Meyer says that physicists have been studying neutrinos ever since they were first discovered in the 50’s. The NOvA Collaboration, which contains more than 200 physicists from around the world, hold several conventions a year to discuss the latest findings.
“Really it’s basic physics,” said Meyer. “Finding knowledge for knowledge sake. There isn’t really an immediate technological application, but we just try to understand the world we live in. We study it because it’s there.”
Holding a convention at WSU this year was not only a productive meeting for all of the physicists involved in NOvA, but also the students who attend the university.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students here at Wichita State to interact with professors from Harvard and postdocs from Caltech,” said Meyer. “Our own graduate and undergraduate students really get exposed to cutting edge research in a way that some of them otherwise might not get as close to.”
For more information, go to www-nova.fnal.gov.