Neutrino Oscillations

by Jon Graves

Mentors:  Dr. Tim Bolton and Dr. Glenn Horton-Smith

Kansas State University Physics Department  REU Program,  NSF

This page summarizes my experience doing research for the Summer 2008 under the tutelage of Dr. Tim Bolton and Dr. Glenn Horton-Smith at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.  My partners on this project are Rachel Houtz, Alex George, and Jeremy Lund.


Here is the Super-KamiokaNDE Neutrino Detector located in the Kamioka mine in Mozumi, Japan.  The detector has a diameter of roughly 18 meters (almost 60 feet).  The picture on the right shows the detector being filled with scintillator fluid.

Project Goals:  Our goals involve studying neutrinos and helping to verify that they change “flavors” as they travel.  General information about neutrinos can be found here.  The neutrino detector experiments we are building upon are KamLAND (Kamioka Liquid Scintillator Anti-Neutrino Detector) in Japan and Double Chooz (pronounced “show”) in northern France near the Belgium border.  These are the KamLAND and Double Chooz project proposals, in pdf format.  We will also become familiar with Geant4, a program that will simulate particles passing through matter.

Research Strategy:  When the Sun fuses hydrogen into helium or a nuclear reactor’s uranium undergoes fission, neutrinos are released.  Specifically, electron flavor neutrinos.  The other flavors the neutrinos may change into are muon and tau neutrinos.  The electron antineutrinos participate in the following reaction:

where the greek letter nu represents neutrinos, p are protons, n are neutrons, and e+ are positrons.  Positrons are electrons with a positive charge.  They are antimatter and consequently annihilate with ordinary matter (in this case, negatively charged electrons).  The positron and electron combine to create gamma rays, which can be detected within the scintillator fluid of the detectors.  Also, the neutron that comes out of this reaction will subsequently be captured by a nearby nucleus and also release some energy.  These two energy spikes are distinctive of an antineutrino reaction.  Certain background reactions can mimic these energies and will need to be removed from the data.  Our strategy is to minimize these backgrounds.  My personal area of the research entails looking at what are called “fast neutrons” entering the detector.

Research Progress:  Weekly reports are located here.

Final Presentation:  Here are the links to my final powerpoint and word document.

Pictures:  Click on the following links to download pictures of Japan and KSU!

Ethics Class:  Discounting new terms, I’m not learning anything I didn’t know before.  But it is a good idea for all of the REU students here to discuss issues as a group.  This way we can learn how each other thinks and improve our overall group dynamic.

About Me:   I grew up all over the United States.  I was born in Phoenix, AZ.  I’ve lived in MI, TX, CA, FL, CO, MS, and I am currently in Omaha, NE.  I originally started college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ to become a pilot but soon discovered that the college’s goal was basically to make commercial airline pilots, which I did not want to do…and the costs were quite prohibitive.  It goes without saying, however, that flying is more of a hobby now.

I then served in the Air Force for four years starting in 2001.  I was a Guidance and Control Specialist and worked on many pieces of equipment located in the flight deck like autopilot, inertial navigation system, displays and gauges, magnetic heading and reference system, and many more.  I had the opportunity to travel to Nice, France, Munich, Germany, Aviano AB, Italy, and Bahrain.

Near the end of my term of service I met my future wife, Amanda.  Immediately afterward I began college again at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  I started by majoring in Physics and Geology (just wanted to choose something else to do that was interesting).  I later found out that a Geology major involved significant field work that would ultimately not serve my purposes.  Since my goals did not involve Geophysics, my Geology major was soon transformed into a minor and I decided to major in Mathematics as well as Physics.  This REU program is my first such and I plan on doing this again (probably at a different location) next summer.  I will graduate in Dec 2009.  I’m still deciding on which graduate schools to apply for after I’m finished with my bachelor degrees.

I first got interested in physics when I was quite young.  I took apart my parents VCR to learn how it worked. … It didn’t work so well after I “put it back together.”  I am an avid collector of video games, new and old.  My all-time favorite games are the Zelda and Final Fantasy series.  I enjoy movies and books as well.  My favorite author is Raymond E. Feist.




My Cats

American Physical Society Statements on Ethics

American Institute of Physics