The Ohio State University at Lima

Physics professor will use National Science Foundation grant to hunt down elusive particle

image of Sabine Jeschonnek

Dr. Sabine Jeschonnek, professor of physics, will be hunting down an abundant but elusive particle with her new $120,000 National Science Foundation grant. She is the sole, principal investigator on the project “Electron Scattering and Neutrino Scattering from Light Nuclei.”

Neutrinos are subatomic particles that travel at nearly the speed of light. They are passing through us and everything around us right now. Many neutrinos came into existence just after the Big Bang. Stars like our sun create them in their nuclear cores, scientists create them in particle accelerators and reactors, supernovas create them when they collapse. In short, they are abundant and everywhere around.

“Neutrinos are interesting because they fly through us all the time. They are elementary particles that can penetrate anything,” Jeschonnek said. “They are hard to study because they don’t interact with matter regularly.”

Jeschonnek’s research has been granted-funded, both in a group and as a single principal investigator, since she arrived at Ohio State Lima in 2001. Much of her past research has been focused on electron scattering. The coding and theories translate well for use with neutrino scattering experiments.

“It is an exciting time to investigate neutrinos because we only learned a few years ago that they oscillate and have a very tiny but non-zero mass. There are now many more details that we will be able to study with the next generation of experiments,” Jeschonnek said. “In addition to learning about the neutrinos themselves by studying their oscillations, neutrinos are also an interesting tool to investigate the structure of nuclei. They are sensitive to the strange quark content of nuclei, and complement the information we can gain from electron scattering.”

Jeschonnek’s work will contribute to our basic knowledge of the universe and help expand our understanding of strangeness content of matter.

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The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports basic research and education in the non-medical fields of science and engineering to create knowledge that transforms the future.