University of Minnesota

Abell 2256

Dark Matter Detectives: Searching for Clues

Prisca Cushman
University of Minnesota

Thursday, October 11, 2018
John T. Tate Hall, Room B50
Watch a recording of Prof Cushman's lecture at


By the 1990’s there was clear evidence that the Universe was filled with a mysterious form of matter that affected the motion of stars and galaxies, bent light from distant galaxies, and influenced cosmic evolution. While the evidence for the existence of this “dark matter” is overwhelming, its nature is still unknown. Over the last several decades, scientists have been searching for clues, which might reveal how dark matter interacts with normal matter and why there is so much of it. Ever larger experiments have been built deep underground where cosmic rays can’t interfere, in order to capture a glimpse of the elusive dark matter particles as they stream through our solar system. So far, there has not been a confirmed sighting in a terrestrial detector, but the dark matter detectives are not giving up. Learn about what progress has been made over the last decade and where we go from here.

Prof Cushman's lecture will be followed by a Q&A session.

About the Speaker

We used to think we understood what everything was made of, from the quarks inside protons and neutrons to the stars and galaxies. We called this the Standard Model of Particle Physics. However, over the last couple decades, it has become obvious that a class of new elementary particles (called dark matter) make up 80% of the matter in the Universe, but do not have a place (yet) in the Standard Model.

My focus these days is trying to understand the nature of that dark matter through direct detection of it as it rains down on us here on Earth. My previous experience in accelerator-based physics informs the design of the detectors and facility. SuperCDMS is a particle physics experiment where the particles are provided by the dark matter that permeates our galaxy and the kinetic energy is provided by the motion of our solar system through the dark matter cloud. An upgraded SuperCDMS experiment is being installed at SNOLAB, an underground lab 2 km below the Earth's surface in Sudbury, Canada. You can read more about the science and the experiment at SuperCDMS

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