UIT offers a wide array of research technology services to serve Tufts research community. High-performance computing and research storage are two of these services that allow Tufts physics professor Hugh Gallagher not only to conduct sophisticated computer simulations on every aspect of the particle detector he uses but also to pursue analysis approaches that involve state-of-the art computer science techniques. To perform his research, Professor Gallagher accesses on a daily basis a 40-node Beowulf Linux cluster as well as 400GB of research storage. The focus of Professor Gallagher’s research is a subatomic particle called the neutrino that plays an important role in particle and nuclear physics as well as astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. “Neutrinos interact very rarely with matter, so despite the fact that neutrinos are the most abundant form of matter in the universe they are still rather mysterious,” he explains.
Professor Gallagher works on three international experiments based at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory located in Batavia, Illinois. Two of these that he is working on, the MINOS and NOVA experiments, will make precision measurements of fundamental neutrino properties such as their mass. Gallagher points out that “these quantities are important inputs to theoretical work that attempts to go beyond the "Standard Model" and complement the work from a new supercollider (the LHC) in Europe. The experiments may also provide an answer to one of the "big questions" in physics today - What is the source of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe?”
For the last two years, a Bernstein Faculty Fellowship, a new initiative from the School of Arts and Sciences to promote cross-disciplinary research and support for junior faculty, has enabled Professor Gallagher to collaborate with Carla Brodley of the Tufts computer science department. Brodley and her colleagues showed Gallagher and his associates a variety of sophisticated machine learning techniques that has allowed them to extract the most information possible from their data. “These techniques require heavy computing resources and without the research cluster we would be unable to pursue these new ideas,” Gallagher comments.
When asked about the future direction of his research, Gallagher said: “When I started graduate school in the early 1990's neutrino oscillations were considered to be highly unlikely. Now they are an established phenomena which is included even in introductory physics texts. The three projects I am working on at the moment will occupy me for probably the next decade - and beyond that, who knows? It all depends on what the current generation of experiments uncovers!”