Carlos Argüelles hunts for particles beyond the standard model

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Should you noticed Carlos Argüelles-Delgado’s childhood bed room — the whiteboard for understanding issues, the maths textbooks they requested for as birthday items — you’d doubtless not be shocked that this child would develop as much as push the boundaries of recent physics.

For years, physicists have recognized that essentially the most profitable idea to explain what the universe is product of, referred to as the usual mannequin, is broken. By prying at one of many greatest cracks within the framework — neutrinos — Argüelles goals to find what’s subsequent for the sector.

Neutrinos are mysterious even for subatomic particles. They’re exhausting to check as a result of they barely work together with matter, and what scientists do find out about them is baffling — like the truth that neutrinos have mass when the usual mannequin predicts they shouldn’t. “That’s why I like neutrinos,” Argüelles says. “They misbehave.” 

Many scientists assume this complicated habits is an indication that neutrinos are affected by undiscovered particles. In that case, demystifying neutrinos may open a brand new window on the universe. The query is: Who’re these hidden companions, and the way can scientists discover them?

Standout analysis

To seek for solutions, Argüelles typically depends on knowledge from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica. IceCube’s 1000’s of buried detectors spot neutrinos from the faint flashes of sunshine they go away after interacting with ice.

For his or her Ph.D., Argüelles combed via these indicators to search for “sterile” neutrinos. If this breed of neutrinos exists, they’d work together with matter even lower than regular neutrinos do. Sterile neutrinos may clarify a number of troubling issues with the usual mannequin, like why neutrinos have mass and why antimatter is rarer than matter. Sterile neutrinos are additionally a candidate for dark matter, the unidentified substance that outweighs regular matter within the universe.

The search made for an enormous venture, however Argüelles completed it in about half of the time typical for U.S. Ph.D.s within the bodily sciences. And although they discovered no indicators of the would-be particle, Argüelles dominated out some concepts about what it might be like.

photo of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory near the South Pole
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory close to the South Pole appears for the faint flashes of sunshine emitted when neutrinos work together with ice.Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF

“It was a tremendous efficiency,” says neutrino physicist Francis Halzen, who suggested Argüelles’ Ph.D. work on the College of Wisconsin–Madison and is IceCube’s head scientist. “It was a chunk of artwork.”

Argüelles additionally appears for different potential hidden particles, like WIMPs, a hypothetical particle that might be a type of darkish matter. And Argüelles isn’t afraid to pursue analysis farther from their specialty. Although no knowledgeable in quantum computer systems, for instance, Argüelles was the first to use a quantum computer to simulate how neutrinos can change from one kind to a different. That would sooner or later assist scientists higher perceive neutrino-rich occasions like supernova explosions.

“I simply hate when folks inform me I can’t do one thing,” Argüelles says.

Halzen describes Argüelles as fearless, the form of scientist who is rarely afraid to ask questions. “I don’t assume they’ve any regard for his or her popularity, ever,” he says.

Why does the universe include a lot extra matter than antimatter? Ghostly subatomic particles referred to as neutrinos might present clues.


Argüelles’ perspective towards analysis is, partly, cast by previous struggles to beat hardship and discrimination.

“There are worse issues in life than not with the ability to clear up an issue,” they are saying.

Rising up in Peru meant constructing a life on shifting floor. The economic system was unstable, and at occasions Argüelles’ household struggled to make ends meet.

Although Argüelles’ dad and mom had been supportive and noticed data as a secure funding, they at first rejected Argüelles’ want to check physics. Argüelles, wiping a tear from their eye, remembers their father saying, “You’re simply going to die of starvation.” Quickly Argüelles’ dad and mom did embrace the profession selection.

Argüelles says Peru, after they had been rising up, was additionally an “extraordinarily adverse setting” for LGBTQ+ folks. “I’m a homosexual man,” they are saying, “and it was very, very, very tough.”

Identical-sex marriages are usually not acknowledged in Peru. Hate crimes and discrimination based mostly on sexual orientation had been solely prohibited in 2017, by a presidential decree that the nation’s Congress tried however didn’t overturn.

When Argüelles left Peru in 2012 to pursue their Ph.D., they discovered that learning physics in the US wasn’t with out obstacles. Nearly no one excessive up within the discipline appeared like them. They struggled underneath the burden of expectations and felt that voicing their anxieties would get them branded as weak. However with assist from mentors, Argüelles persevered.

Now, as an assistant professor at Harvard, Argüelles sees their college students — significantly girls and Hispanics — going through the identical challenges. Argüelles is obsessed with supporting them.

“It’s about not giving up, proper?” Argüelles says. “I nonetheless undergo a few of these issues myself. However I’ll survive it.”

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