You are here

Paul Oxley - Research

I have been involved with three different types of experiment prior to coming to Holy Cross, each of which is aimed at understanding a different aspect of physics.

EBITs in Oxford
While in Oxford in the United Kingdom I performed experiments using an electron beam ion trap (EBIT).  EBITs are able to create and then excite highly-charged ions by electron impact.  There are only a handful of these devices in the world and the one in Oxford I used to study the atomic structure of highly-charged ions.  Studies such as these allow a greater understanding of the properties of astrophysical plasmas and test fundamental physics.

Antimatter in Switzerland
I did my PhD. research at Harvard University and at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland.  The goal of this research was to create and study antihydrogen atoms.  These atoms are the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen atoms, meaning that they consist of an anti-electron, or positron, orbiting around an antiproton.  Experiments with antihydrogen atoms offer the opportunity to test some of Physics' most fundamental theories such as the CPT theorem and the Weak Equivalence Principle.  During my PhD. I performed experiments where antiprotons and positrons are captured in a near-perfect vacuum, confined by electric and magnetic fields, and cooled to 4 degrees above absolute zero.  These particles were then induced to interact with one another by two separate means.  The first method created thousands of antihydrogen atoms in a broad range of atomic states and with a temperature significantly greater than 4 degrees Kelvin.  The second method produced far fewer anti-atoms, but in a narrow range of atomic states and at 4 degrees Kelvin.  Antihydrogen which is cold enough can, in the future, be confined nearly indefinitely in a magnetic trap, allowing time to accurately study its properties.

Microwaves Above Antarctica
I did post-doctoral research in the field of experimental cosmology at the University of Minnesota.  Cosmology is the study of the structure and origin of the universe. As part of the EBEx collaboration at Minnesota I was helping design an exquisitely sensitive apparatus which will measure the intensity and polarization of the cosmic microwave background, or CMB.  The CMB is electromagnetic radiation created in the big bang which is present throughout the universe.  Sensitive measurements of the CMB polarization will probe an inflationary epoch that took place shortly after the big bang and significantly improve constraints on the values of several cosmological parameters.  The experiment I was designing will be floated on a balloon-borne platform at an altitude above 20 miles above Antarctica.