UTA assistant professor awarded American Physical Society’s Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award in Experimental Particle Physics

Monday, Apr 03, 2017 • Media Contact : Louisa Kellie

Benjamin Jones, UTA assistant professor of Physics

The American Physical Society has awarded Benjamin Jones, assistant professor of Physics at The University of Texas at Arlington, the Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award in Experimental Particle Physics, which is widely considered the most prestigious dissertation award in the field.

Jones received the award for his doctoral thesis from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Sterile Neutrinos in Cold Climates,” which was based on his research on the IceCube experiment at the South Pole.

IceCube is an international collaboration of scientists from 48 institutions in 12 countries, dedicated to studying neutrino physics and neutrino astrophysics using the 1-billion-ton IceCube detector located at the South Pole. Neutrinos are subatomic particles that may offer an answer to the mystery of the universe’s matter anti-matter imbalance.

Jones’ work at IceCube centered on the search for a hypothetical particle, the sterile neutrino. He first received international attention after a study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters last year that suggested that the sterile neutrino that had been hinted at in previous experiments in the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector at Los Alamos National Laboratory does not in fact exist.

Jones was one of the principal researchers on this search, which involved studying tens of thousands of atmospheric neutrino events collected by IceCube over two years, to look for fingerprints of the mysterious new particle.  There was no trace of the sterile neutrino anywhere. 

As a result, the researchers ruled out the existence of the sterile neutrino suggested by the Los Alamos experiment at 99 percent confidence level.  This is the strongest constraint to date on this type of particle.

IceCube Lab on Antartica

Jones joined UTA in 2016 as an assistant professor of physics.

“This award is a great honor and an important recognition for my work at IceCube,” Jones said. “I will now be continuing this work from UTA, as the University recently petitioned and was accepted as an institutional partner for the international IceCube project.”

Jones received his undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University in 2008 and his doctorate in neutrino physics from MIT in 2015. Jones also received the Siddans Prize for Physics from Selwyn College, Cambridge, in 2008 and the Martin Deutsch Award for Excellence in Experimental Particle Physics from MIT in 2015.

UTA Physics Chair Alex Weiss stressed the importance of this work in the context of the University’s focus on data-driven discovery within the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions|Global Impact. 

“Dr. Jones’ work is positioning UTA to be a major participant in a new area of neutrino physics,” said UTA Physics Chair Alex Weiss. “We are very proud of his achievements and look forward to a strong collaboration in IceCube as we go forward.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000, UTA is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. Guided by its Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research and education within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report lists UTA as having the fifth highest undergraduate diversity index among national universities. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2017 Best for Vets list.