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Professor Stefan Bathe’s Role in Taking Steps to Understand the Early Universe

Professor Stefan Bathe (Natural Sciences) is celebrating a milestone in his research group’s work at Brookhaven National Laboratory: the installation of a massive superconducting magnet. The magnet is a key piece of sPHENIX, a detector that will begin collecting data in 2023 to help scientists understand matter as it existed in the early universe.

A time-lapsed video of the magnet’s installation (shown above) shows the scale of the project. The sPHENIX detector will track particles streaming from RHIC (relativistic heavy ion collider) collisions with what Brookhaven described as “unprecedented precision.” Bathe has been leading the assembly, testing, and calibration of a hadronic calorimeter (the blue circular structure pictured below the magnet), which measures particle energy.

Nine members of Professor Stefan Bathe's research team are shown wearing masks
Professor Stefan Bathe, front row center, and some of his research team members

Bathe supervises a team of some 40 students and postdocs from around the US, including students Daniel Richford and Zhiyan Wang from the CUNY Graduate Center, where Bathe is on the faculty. Richford won this year’s RHIC and AGS  (Alternating Gradient Synchrotron) Merit Award “for his tireless leadership ensuring the safe and timely assembly and testing of the sPHENIX hadronic calorimeter during a global pandemic.”

Now that the magnet is in place, “we are working on the next layer of calorimeter detectors, to be installed inside the magnet early next year,” Bathe said. “Once the installation of this equipment is complete, we’ll be able to more carefully examine the particle soup that remains floating out there in the universe from the Big Bang.”

You can read more about the research and the students’ contributions in this story from the CUNY Graduate Center.

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