UNM Astronomy Graduate Student Receives Research Award from the U.S. Department of Energy

December 1, 2017

Jacek Ksawery Osinski, 2017 recipient of the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) award conferred by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), was selected among 52 applicants for this competitive award. This gives Jacek an important opportunity to advance his doctoral thesis while gaining the additional expertise and resources available at DOE laboratories. Although he could have chosen any of the 17 national labs, Jacek will take his six months of support to work and live at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where scientists will train him in theoretical particle physics.  More about the award can be found here.

Jacek’s research is focused on events that occurred 13.7 billion years ago, specifically the time between the Big Bang that created what we know as the universe and one second after that event. This time period, when the universe was less than one second old, has no observational link to the current time, and getting to within one second of the Big Bang will allow Jacek to probe the origin of the universe. Specifically, Jacek’s research explores three paths: 1) the connections between black holes and dark matter; 2) a two-field model of matter domination and relevance of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (or WIMPS); and, 3) a particle physics question involving how dyon particles in the hidden sectors of the universe (versus observable sectors) interact. Although these lines of inquiry may seem “far out,” they are all related through their ability to probe properties of the early universe once dark matter is detected.

Jacek’s thesis is concerned with non-standard dark matter production mechanisms. Jacek has a publication about very small, particle-sized black holes that could provide a source for dark matter. Since dark matter is a major constituent of the universe, detecting this | will be one of the greatest discoveries in physics. The way Jacek is thinking may very well make this discovery even more meaningful through the connections to the origin of the universe that he is developing. And there is competition as well as coordination on the dark matter discovery. For example, some competing theories involve very light particles “sub-GeV” dark matter that could be accelerated to very fast speeds (exceeding 600 km per second) creating particles that could hit the sun, become accelerated, and then encounter Earth. Advancing technology in detectors could see these particles.

After graduating from Albuquerque Academy, Jacek enrolled at UNM and finished his Bachelor’s in Astrophysics in 2013 when he advanced directly into the graduate program. He plans to complete his Ph.D. in 2018/2019 and start a post-doc the following year. He would like either to work in a national lab or teach physics in a small liberal arts school associated with Big Science collaborations. Jacek spends his time thinking deeply about hidden interactions and dark matter. Now that he will have a little time on his hands (about one second), Jacek may lead us to actually seeing in the dark.