Brown physicist elected to represent U.S. in Large Hadron Collider experiment

Meenakshi Narain will lead the collaboration board for U.S. institutions participating in the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, an experiment pushing the frontiers of modern particle physics.

Meenakshi Narain
Meenakshi Narain

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University physics professor Meenakshi Narain has been tapped to chair the collaboration board of U.S. institutions in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of two large-scale experiments happening at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator headquartered in Geneva.

The CMS experiment is an international collaboration of 4,000 particle physicists, engineers, computer scientists, technicians and students from approximately 200 institutes and universities around the world. With more than 1,200 participants, the U.S. CMS collaboration is the largest national group in the global experiment. As collaboration board chair, Narain will represent U.S. institutions within the broader collaboration, as well as with U.S. funding agencies. The board also plays a key role in shaping the vision and direction of the U.S. collaboration.

“I’m honored that my colleagues from the 50 U.S. institutions that collaborate with the CMS Experiment have chosen me to represent them,” Narain said. “I see this position as an opportunity to help U.S. CMS to become a more inclusive community and to enable all young scientists to contribute to their full potential to CMS and find rewarding career opportunities in academia and industry.”

Narain and other Brown physicists working with the CMS experiment played key roles in the discovery in 2012 of the Higgs Boson, which at the time was the final missing piece in the Standard Model of particle physics. After the Higgs, the CMS experiment has been searching for particles beyond the Standard Model, including a potential candidate particle for dark matter, the mysterious stuff thought to account for a majority of matter in the universe.

Narain says part of her job is to maintain the research synergy created by the numerous U.S. scientists and institutions involved in the collaboration as they analyze data from the collider’s latest run. At the same time, the experiment must also prepare for the next stage of the Large Hadron Collider program slated to start around 2026. The next stage involves beam intensities five times higher the current level and 10 times more data than has been acquired to date. That will require parts of the CMS detector to be rebuilt.

“We need the resources to maintain the detector during the current run as well as to start building the upgrades,” Narain said. “I will work with funding agencies to communicate what we’ll need to both maintain our involvement in the data analysis and play a leading role in the upgrade of the detector.”

Narain says that as the first woman to chair the collaboration board, she plans to work toward cultivating more diversity in what is currently the largest physics collaboration in the U.S.

“With this comes the opportunity to promote women and other underrepresented minorities to have the opportunity to develop their careers to their fullest potential,” she said. “I hope that I will be able to improve our community in the U.S. and in CMS in general to be more inclusive during my two-year term.”

Narain joined the Brown faculty in 2007 and has worked at the Large Hadron Collider together with the Brown team that includes professors David Cutts, Ulrich Heintz and Greg Landsberg. She was also a member of the DZero experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where she played a prominent role in the discoveries of the top quark and the anti-top quark, two fundamental constituents of matter. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the author of more than 500 journal articles.