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Dhiman Chakraborty: Particle path-breaker

April 5, 2011
Dhiman Chakraborty

Dhiman Chakraborty

Not many children dream of becoming particle physicists, but Dhiman Chakraborty from a young age seemed destined for the field.

Early training, guidance and inspiration from his parents helped Chakraborty win entrance into an elite high school in his native Calcutta, India. Each day, he would pass by a statue of the school’s most illustrious alumnus, Satyendra Nath Bose, the co-formulator of Bose-Einstein statistics. The category of sub-atomic particles known as bosons is named in his honor.

“I always had an interest in trying to understand the physical world, and in my high school, physics was the cool thing to do,” Chakraborty says.  “Having to walk by Bose’s bust several times a day did its part as well.”

Over the past two decades, Chakraborty has helped shed light on the building blocks of our universe. He has made contributions to scientific understanding of the subatomic world, the discovery of the top quark and the pursuit of the Higgs boson — a predicted particle considered the holy grail of particle physics. Its detection would confirm the existence of the Higgs field, which is thought to permeate the universe and give particles mass.

Chakraborty first established his reputation while working as a research scientist at Fermilab’s Tevatron collider.

His doctoral research made important contributions to the 1995 discovery of the top quark, the heaviest known fundamental particle. He later served as co-leader of the top-quark physics group for Fermilab’s DZero Collaboration and was an early trailblazer in use of the top quark as a search tool for other new physics, including the charged Higgs boson.

In 2001, Chakraborty brought his talents to NIU. Now he is helping to define the university’s future role in particle physics research.

“Dhiman is the leader of NIU’s efforts to expand experimental particle physics beyond Fermilab,” says Laurence Lurio, physics department chair.

In 2008, Chakraborty formed an NIU team to join the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC recently replaced Fermilab’s Tevatron as the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.

The NIU team quickly proved its worth, writing computer codes to analyze collisions and monitoring calorimeters, which measure the energy of particles. By this summer, the team will grow to include 10 NIU faculty members, research scientists and graduate students, several of whom have won highly competitive fellowships to conduct research at CERN.

Working to forge partnerships with peer institutions involved in ATLAS, Chakraborty also spent a year as a guest scientist at LPSC Grenoble, a French national laboratory. Within the United States, his NIU group works closely with counterparts at Yale, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma and Argonne National Laboratory.

Additionally, Chakraborty has led design of calorimeters and software that would be used at the proposed International Linear Collider, a next generation accelerator. He has published 340 articles in refereed journals, given invited talks at many academic and research institutions worldwide, and attracted nearly $4 million in competitive federal funding for research.

“Chakraborty has made outstanding contributions in generating new physics ideas and results, to the development of new software systems, and to novel instrumentation,” says Paul Grannis, distinguished professor emeritus at State University of New York at Stony Brook. “He has recently taken on important positions of leadership in the field. This breadth of achievement is impressive and is one of the hallmarks of a leading physicist.”

Satyendra Nath Bose would have been pleased.