WIPAC researchers set new limits on the origins of the Galactic neutrino emission detected by IceCube

Neutrinos are tiny, nearly massless particles that travel cosmological distances unhindered, acting as messengers that carry information about their sources. Since the recent detection of high-energy neutrino emission from the Milky Way, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is working to pinpoint the exact nature of the Galactic emission contributing to the astrophysical [...]

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Ke Fang named inaugural recipient of the Bernice Durand Faculty Fellowship

The Department of Physics is pleased to announce that Ke Fang, assistant professor of physics and WIPAC investigator, has received the inaugural Bernice Durand Faculty Fellowship. This fellowship, given in honor of late Professor Emerit of Physics Bernice Durand, recognizes Fang’s major contributions to the analysis of data from the NASA Fermi satellite, the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) telescope and IceCube, and for fundamental theoretical insights in their multimessenger context. Fang is a Sloan Fellow, has been awarded an NSF CAREER award, and is the spokesperson for the HAWC experiment.

a man and a woman smile while both holding a framed award certificate
Department Chair and professor Mark Eriksson (left) presents assistant professor Ke Fang with the Bernice Durand Faculty Fellowship at the department awards banquet in May 2024.

Durand was one of the first two women professors in the UW–Madison Department of Physics. While at UW–Madison, Durand was a theoretical physicist who specialized in particle theory and mathematical physics. Her research was on symmetry relations in algebra and physics, plus the phenomenology of high-energy interactions at large particle accelerators.

As the first Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Climate, Professor Durand provided leadership to ensure that faculty, staff, and student diversity issues including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, and classroom and general campus workplace climate issues be addressed, and that search committees for non-classified staff be trained in broadening the pool of applicants and eliminating implicit bias. Durand co-directed a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the UW System designed to create more equity, flexibility and career options for faculty and academic staff. She was also a member of the leadership team of the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation to increase the participation and status of women in science.

A recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Teaching, Professor Durand taught courses at all levels, from modern physics for non-scientists (“Physics for Poets”) to a specialized course she developed for advanced graduate students in the use of topology and algebra in quantum field theory. In the mid 1990s, she used technological and pedagogical techniques in her teaching, such as broadcasting her modern physics for non-scientists course on public television with web-based coursework, and pioneering one of two early versions of MOOCs (massive open online courses) on campus.

Durand passed away in 2022.

The Bernice Durand Faculty Fellowship was conceived by our Board of Visitors, who spearheaded the ultimately-successful fundraising effort, with support from Professor Emerit Randy Durand for this fellowship honoring his wife.

Sanjib Kumar Agarwalla receives prestigious 2021-2022 Rajib Goyal Prize

Sanjib Kumar Agarwalla was recently awarded the 2021-2022 Rajib Goyal Prize in Physical Sciences, which “honors Indian scientists who have made a mark in basic and applied sciences research.” The Goyal Prizes were instituted by the late philanthropist Ram S. Goyal to honor Indian scientists and social activists working towards the service of India.  Agarwalla [...]

Read the full article at: https://wipac.wisc.edu/sanjib-kumar-agarwalla-receives-prestigious-2021-2022-rajib-goyal-prize/

WIPAC, UW–Madison Physics Department host after-school program

Last week, 23 participants and their family members gathered for an evening of presentations and cake as part of IceCube After School, an eight-week program hosted by the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC). Since 2013, the annual program introduces local high school students to WIPAC research and the people who make it possible. For [...]

Read the full article at: https://wipac.wisc.edu/wipac-uw-madison-physics-department-host-after-school-program/

Ke Fang named Sloan Fellow

This story is adapted from one published by University Communications

profile photo of Ke Fang
Ke Fang

Ke Fang, assistant professor of Physics and WIPAC investigator, is among 126 scientists across the United States and Canada selected as Sloan Research Fellows.

The fellowships, awarded annually since 1955, honor exceptional scientists whose creativity, innovation and research accomplishments make them stand out as future leaders in their fields.

Using data from the Ice Cube Observatory and Fermi Large Area Telescope along with numerical simulations, Fang studies the origin of subatomic particles — like neutrinos — that reach Earth from across the universe.

“Sloan Research Fellowships are extraordinarily competitive awards involving the nominations of the most inventive and impactful early-career scientists across the U.S. and Canada,” says Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We look forward to seeing how fellows take leading roles shaping the research agenda within their respective fields.”

Founded in 1934, the Sloan Foundation is a not-for-profit institution dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Sloan Fellows are chosen in seven fields — chemistry, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics — based on nomination and consideration by fellow scientists. The 2024 cohort comes from 53 institutions and a field that included more than 1,000 nominees. Winners receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship that can be used flexibly to advance their research.

Among current and former Sloan Fellows, 57 have won a Nobel Prize, 71 have been awarded the National Medal of Science, 17 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics and 23 have won the John Bates Clark Medal in economics.

Xiangyao Yu, assistant professor of computer sciences at UW–Madison, was also named a Sloan Fellow.


First field season for IceCube Upgrade ongoing at the South Pole

Over the past two months, a team of IceCube drill engineers have completed an impressive amount of work during the first of three consecutive field seasons for the IceCube Upgrade. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and international collaborators.

The goal of the project is to drill seven holes in 2025/2026 and deploy seven more closely spaced and more densely instrumented strings of sensors in the central part of the array, which will improve IceCube’s sensitivity to low energies. Having a productive first field season both sets the Upgrade project up for success and trains the new generation of drillers at the South Pole.

The majority of the team’s engineers come from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL), where equipment is fabricated and shipped to the South Pole. Additional drill engineers hail from Sweden, New Zealand, and for the first time, Thailand.

“This year’s drill team is a group of 17 talented professionals who have completed an enormous amount of work,” says Kurt Studt, drill engineer at PSL and the on-ice drill manager for the Upgrade. “We’ve overcome many difficult challenges while dealing with the extreme environment at the South Pole, including temperatures as low as -35 ⁰F and windchills below -60 ⁰F.”

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a metal coiled cone on the left, and the hole it drilled in Antarctic ice on the right
The IFD “carrot” drill head (left) drills a 40-meter hole in the firn (right). Credit: Kurt Studt, IceCube/NSF

Federal physics advisory panel — including Profs. Bose and Cranmer — announces particle physics recommendations

Earlier this year, physics professors Tulika Bose and Kyle Cranmer were selected to serve on the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, or P5, a group of High Energy Physics experts that advises the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation’s Division of Physics on high energy and particle physics matters.

P5 announced their recommendations in a draft report published Dec. 7 — and UW–Madison physicists are featured in many of the projects.

One recommendation is to move forward with a planned expansion of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, an international scientific collaboration operated by the UW–Madison at the South Pole. Other recommendations include support for a separate neutrino experiment based in Illinois (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, or DUNE); continuing investment in the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and the Rubin Observatory in Chile; and expanding involvement in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), a ground-based very-high-energy gamma ray observatory. UW–Madison physicists have leading roles in all of these research efforts.

Additional recommendations include the development of a next generation of ground-based telescopes to observe the cosmic microwave background and a direct dark matter detector experiment, among others.

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Lu Lu receives 2023 IUPAP Early Career Scientist Prize

This story was originally posted by WIPAC

IceCube collaborator and UW–Madison assistant professor of physics Lu Lu received a 2023 International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Early Career Scientist Prize “for her contributions to the development of high energy neutrino astronomy in the PeV energy region.” Lu accepted the award on July 27 during the opening ceremony at the 38th International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC) held in Nagoya, Japan.

profile photo of Lu Lu
Lu Lu

Early Career Scientist Prizes are given to early career scientists within each IUPAP commission who have up to eight years of postdoctoral research experience and have made significant contributions to the cosmic ray field. Lu is a recipient of the Early Career Scientist Prize in the Commission on Astroparticle Physics (C4).

Her PhD work focused on developing a novel technique to search for ultra-high-energy photons using data from the Pierre Auger Observatory. She also played a leading role in the initial design of the “Dual optical sensors in an Ellipsoid Glass for Gen2” (D-Egg), a two-PMT optical module for the IceCube Upgrade.

More recently, she made key contributions to the multimessenger correlation studies of the neutrino source candidate TXS0506+056 and to the detection of a particle shower associated with the hadronic decay of a resonant W boson.

Lu is currently an assistant professor of physics at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her current research focuses on diffuse high-energy astrophysical/cosmogenic neutrinos from TeV to EeV, Galactic PeVatron detection in the context of multimessenger observations, and the exploration of potential transient ultra-high-energy sources.

She is actively involved in IceCube outreach initiatives and has pioneered the development of an app that provides IceCube real-time alerts via augmented reality on mobile devices. Currently, she serves as co-lead of the diffuse science working group in IceCube and is one of three representatives of the physical science group of US-SCAR (Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research).

“I would like to express my deep appreciation for my collaborators and for those who work on foundational tasks such as reconstructions and calibrations, as their efforts behind the scenes make groundbreaking discoveries possible,” said Lu. “As early career scientists, we bear the responsibility of continuing and expanding experiments in the particle astrophysics field. We must collaborate and work together to ensure that the next generation of young scientists will have exciting discoveries to make.”

IceCube shows Milky Way galaxy is a neutrino desert

a red-lit IceCube lab (a metal modern-looking lab building stationed at the south pole) with the white swirl of the Milky Way behind it is in a photo, with an artists rendering of a stream of neutrinos (greek letter nu) streams out of the center of the Milky Way

The Milky Way galaxy is an awe-inspiring feature of the night sky, dominating all wavelengths of light and viewable with the naked eye as a hazy band of stars stretching from horizon to horizon. Now,

In a June 30 article in the journal Science, the IceCube Collaboration — an international group of more than 350 scientists — presents this new evidence of high-energy neutrino emission from the Milky Way. The findings indicate that the Milky Way produces far fewer neutrinos than the average distant galaxies.

“What’s intriguing is that, unlike the case for light of any wavelength, in neutrinos, the universe outshines the nearby sources in our own galaxy,” says Francis Halzen, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and principal investigator at IceCube.

The IceCube search focused on the southern sky, where the bulk of neutrino emission from the galactic plane is expected near the center of the galaxy. However, until now, a background of neutrinos and other particles produced by cosmic-ray interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere made it difficult to parse out neutrinos originating from galactic sources — a significant challenge compounded by relatively sparse neutrino production in general.

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