The annual Institute of Physics conference in high energy and astroparticle physics features a fiercely fought for poster prize. This year’s winner is Maria Francesca Marzioni, a PhD student from the Edinburgh Particle Physics Experiment group.
Dark matter is the mysterious invisible substance known to make up around 85% of the mass of our Galaxy. Its fundamental particle nature remains unknown. One of the leading candidates is the axion, a particle that was originally postulated to solve the so-called strong CP problem, which asks why strong charge-parity violation, expected in the Standard Model, has not been seen in Nature. (The name axion, which is also the name of a washing powder, was chosen as the proposed mechanism ‘cleaned up’ this problem). Using data from the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, a major international experiment situated a mile underground in South Dakota, USA, Maria Francesca has now set the most sensitive constraints ever achieved for certain types of axion. She has also determined the sensitivity reach of the future LUX-ZEPLIN instrument, presently being built to replace LUX.
Maria Francesca said "It’s really exciting to work in this challenging field. To win a prize is just wonderful."
Prof Alex Murphy, Maria Francesca’s supervisor, said “I’m delighted that Maria Francesca has won this award. She has worked very hard and produced an absolutely excellent result that fully deserves such recognition.”