Apr 20 2020

Dr Asher Kaboth, Department of Physics, has recently contributed to research which has been published in Nature by T2K. The research looks into anti-symmetry between matter and antimatter in our Universe. We caught up with Dr Kaboth to learn more about this research, and to help us understand what it means. 

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, and your role within the Department of Physics?

I joined the RHUL Physics department in 2015 to found the department’s neutrino research activities. I also work on looking for dark matter—searching for a mysterious particle that makes up 80% of the universe’s mass—with my colleague Jocelyn Monroe. I teach the first year lab course, which I really like. It’s great to get students working with the messiness of real data.

2. Your contribution to research surrounding new advances in neutrino physics has been published in Nature magazine, how long have you been working on this research, alongside other contributors from T2K?

I’ve been working onT2K since 2012, just after I finished my PhD. I was really driven by this question of the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe and jumped at the opportunity. I quickly got involved in asymmetry analyses on the experiment, and have been working on them ever since.

I’ve been working on neutrinos in general much longer—my first research placement in undergrad was with a neutrino group, the summer between my first and second years of uni. My electricity and magnetism lecturer offered me a shot, and I fell in love with these weird little particles!

3. The research looks into ‘neutrinos’, can you explain in simple terms what these are?

Neutrinos are a tiny, extremely light fundamental particle, and one of the trickiest to detect. They have less than one millionth the mass of an electron, and exist in vast numbers in the universe—about 50 billion per square centimetre per second arrive at Earth from the Sun! But almost all of those neutrinos just pass right through the Earth, so we have to build enormous detectors to try to find them.

They also have this extremely weird quantum property that there are three kinds of neutrino, but you can count those three in two different ways: either by their mass or by their ‘flavour’, a property of how they interact in detectors. However, one mass is not associated with one flavour—they’re all mixed up. It’s by studying this mixing for neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts that we can see if the mixing is slightly different for the two. That’s what this Nature paper is all about: we see indications that the mixing is different for the two, and that maybe has huge implications for our whole universe.

It sounds simple, but creating and detecting neutrinos is very difficult, and making sure that we haven’t been bamboozled by some other effect is also really difficult!

4. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway?

I’ve got great colleagues and students!

5. How do you like to spend your time outside of work at the moment?

Right now, I’m baking a lot of bread, knitting a sweater, and going on a lot of bike rides for exercise!