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March 8, 2023

Keynote: A Sparkle in the Dark The Outlandish Quest for Dark Matter | Maria Elena Monzani

About This Video

Maria Elena Monzani, Lead Scientist, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University leads the Keynote Address “A Sparkle in the Dark: The Outlandish Quest for Dark Matter.” The nature and origin of dark matter are among the most compelling mysteries of contemporary science. There is strong evidence for dark matter from its role in shaping the galaxies and galaxy clusters that we observe in the universe. Still, for over three decades, physicists have been trying to detect the dark matter particles themselves with little success.

This talk will describe the leading effort in that search, the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) detector. LZ is an instrument that is superlative in many ways. It consists of 10 tons of liquified xenon gas, maintained at almost atomic purity and stored in a refrigerated titanium cylinder a mile underground in a former gold mine in Lead, South Dakota.

During its science run, LZ is projected to accumulate a massive dataset, consisting of many petabytes of data and recording several billions of particle interactions, only a handful of which might be produced by potential dark matter candidates (if nature cooperates). Identifying the dark matter signals in this amassment of data represents an extreme “needle in a haystack” problem, and requires leveraging advanced detector design and stat-of-the art machine learning algorithms. The talk will present some of the challenges in constructing this large-scale underground experiment and interpreting its data, along with the prospects LZ presents for finally discovering the dark matter particle, and recently-released results from its initial search for new physics.

In This Video
Lead Scientist, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology

Maria Elena Monzani is a dark matter data wrangler. Her research field is Astroparticle physics, which focuses on topics at the intersection between particle physics and astrophysics/cosmology, using the tools of data intensive science. She received a dual PhD from University of Milano and University of Paris 7, performing research with the Borexino experiment that measured neutrinos produced by the Sun. She then held a postdoctoral position at Columbia University before joining SLAC in 2007 to work on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Today, Monzani is a lead scientist at SLAC and a senior member of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford. She leads the software computing effort for the LZ Dark Matter Experiment and the science operations team for the Fermi satellite. She is also an Adjunct Scholar at the Vatican Observatory, and enjoys discussing the shared philosophical foundations of the scientific and religious endeavors.