• December 7, 2021

Christopher Tunnell wins NSF CAREER Award


IMAGE: Rice particle physicist and laptop scientist Christopher Tunnell has received a Nationwide Science Basis CAREER Award for early profession scientists and engineers to advance his seek for darkish matter and…
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Credit score: Jeff Fitlow/Rice College

HOUSTON – (March 5, 2021) – Rice College computational astroparticle physicist Christopher Tunnell is getting assist in his seek for the character of the universe by means of a Nationwide Science Basis (NSF) CAREER Award.

The five-year grant is awarded annually to fewer than 400 early profession scientists and engineers anticipated to make vital impacts of their fields of examine. The award to Tunnell is for $400,000.

Tunnell, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of laptop science, joined Rice in 2018 and has drawn worldwide consideration for his participation within the seek for darkish matter. He’s a principal investigator on the XENON1T (quickly to be the XENONnT) challenge, which operates an ultrasensitive instrument underneath a mountain in Italy to seize traces of elemental particles that fly to, and typically by means of, Earth.

The XENON detectors are capable of decide up faint proof of cosmic vacationers whether or not they contain darkish matter or not. Amongst them are interactions with neutrinos which have magnetic moments, a subject of Tunnell’s present work.

Two years in the past, the instrument caught proof of the radioactive decay of xenon 124 displaying the ingredient has a half-life longer than the age of the universe. Final yr, it might have turned up hints of one other long-sought cosmic particle, axions, hypothetical particles thought to originate within the solar. That discovery triggered a flurry of a whole lot of theoretical papers making an attempt to elucidate the observations.

“There are two core actions in my group: One is pure astroparticle physics, constructing darkish matter detectors,” Tunnell mentioned. “That is type of our day job. The opposite is knowledge science and machine studying analysis and growth. The purpose of our CAREER proposal is to hyperlink these two actions to use our knowledge science R&D to laborious physics issues.

“On this case, a part of it’s known as neutrino-less double-beta decay, a tough measurement that may be very fascinating to physicists and past,” he mentioned. An earlier $1 million NSF grant helped develop the strategies that might be utilized by the brand new examine to disclose the character of neutrino mass.

All that assist will assist Tunnell discover folks with the distinctive mixture of skills required by his lab. “There is a deficit of individuals like me in physics who’re simply as occupied with computational science analysis because the physics and might do each,” he mentioned. “So I am all the time searching for postdocs and college students I can practice, and the tutorial a part of the CAREER Award will assist handle this.”

Tunnell is grateful the panel of physicists who selected him for the award respect his knowledge science chops. “It is good to know the analysis concepts we’re pitching are usually not solely fascinating on the on the info science, machine-learning facet, however that they are simply good physics tasks, interval,” he mentioned.


Learn the summary at https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2046549&HistoricalAwards=false

This information launch will be discovered on-line at https://information.rice.edu/2021/03/05/christopher-tunnell-wins-nsf-career-award/

Further Media Contact:
Mike Williams



Observe Rice Information and Media Relations by way of Twitter @RiceUNews.

Associated supplies:

Darkish matter search turns up trace of mysterious particle:

Elemental old-timer makes the universe seem like a toddler:

Rice Astroparticle Group:

Division of Physics and Astronomy:

Rice Laptop Science:

Wiess Faculty of Pure Sciences:

Photos for obtain:


CAPTION: Christopher Tunnell. (Credit score: Jeff Fitlow/Rice College)


Rice particle physicist and laptop scientist Christopher Tunnell on the XENON1T experiment in Italy. Tunnell has received a Nationwide Science Basis CAREER Award for early profession scientists and engineers to advance his seek for darkish matter and different phenomena. (Credit score: Courtesy of Christopher Tunnell/Rice College)

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