Atmospheric Neutrino Studies with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory





Project Summary

The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) was an underground neutrino observatory based in Ontario, Canada. The observatory was motivated in the 1980s to research the theory of neutrino oscillations, where neutrinos change flavor (species of an elementary particle) upon being measured at different points in time and space, after measurements of solar neutrinos were inconsistent with those predicted by the Standard Solar Model. Starting in 1999, SNO sought to observe the light produced by electrons resulting from neutrino interactions in heavy water within a detector. The detector was shut off in 2006, but as a result of its experiment and subsequent analysis, SNO made clear the first evidence of neutrino oscillation.

The goal of the research that I conducted this summer in the SNO Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania was to run simulations of these experiments within different detector geometries. From the resulting data of the interactions, we then sought to develop energy reconstructions and a parametric model of the interactions. We ran simulations of particle interactions within the detector, varying both the energy levels of the particles as well as their starting locations in the detector. The photons from the events then propagate through the water of the detector and reach a photomultiplier tube, which is triggered upon detecting light. From this data, we were able to construct analytic plots using ROOT, a scientific data analysis package from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (also known as CERN), that told us various trends about the particle interactions.

This project was a fantastic way for me to both further develop my knowledge and understanding of physics as well as use the various skills I have learned through my major in computer science thus far. The project allowed me to learn more about topics in particle physics which went far beyond what was covered in the introductory physics courses. Additionally, in using ROOT, I was able to learn how to write code in C++ and Python and use a shell for scientific computing purposes, which are skills that I am certain will prove very useful to me in the years ahead. I am thankful for the opportunity to conduct research and both contribute to this fascinating project as well as develop as an aspiring researcher.