Not surprisingly

Top Physics College undergraduate

Colleges / June 14, 2019

(Gabriel Caceres will speak on "Searching for Dark Matter" at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 24 in Science 304. A reception will begin at 4 p.m.)

Augustana graduate Gabriel Caceres ('08) has won the top physics prize and a $3, 000 scholarship in a research competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

He was one of five top national science students honored last week for their work in the inaugural Science and Energy Research Challenge (SERCh) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Top undergraduate research students from colleges and universities across the country competed in biological sciences, materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics and environmental science. Students presented abstracts, posters and oral presentations detailing high level research they completed as DOE undergraduate interns.

Cecilia Vogel, associate professor of physics at Augustana, and her former student Gabe Caceres at the first Science and Energy Research Challenge (SERCh) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

How it came about: Gabriel Caceres was at Fermilab in the summer of 2007 working on a dark matter detection experiment called CDMS (Cryogenic Dark Matter Search). When he learned that he would be returning the next summer, he contacted Dr. Dan Hooper, a scientist in the Theoretical Astrophysics group at the lab, to work with him on the dark matter related project which won the Department of Energy award.

Background on the project: "The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) is a satellite which studied the cosmic microwave background (radiation left over from the very early universe), " he said. "You can also use this satellite to study signals from our galaxy, and it turns out there's an excess emission, called "WMAP Haze" which has not been explained. One proposed reason for this signal are dark matter particles annihilating in the Galactic Center. Our work then studied this possibility in the context of supersymmetry, a theory which, among other things, gives you an excellent dark matter candidate."

Why astrophysics? "I originally was interested in particle physics but through my research projects I got more involved in astrophysical work and that's how I ended up in an Astronomy and Astrophysics Department. My area of research is "particle astrophysics" which is where my dark matter work falls."