Monica Dunford

Monica Dunford

I started college at the University of California, Irvine intending to major in chemistry, maybe math but absolutely under NO circumstance physics. Ten years later, I find myself with a B.S. in physics from UCI and Ph.D. in the subject from the University of Pennsylvania and an Enrico Fermi Fellowship working on the LHC experiment ATLAS with the University of Chicago. What changed my mind? The UCI physics department was full of opportunities for undergraduates to work in research labs. Starting as a freshman and continuing throughout my four years at Irvine, I worked on two gamma- ray experiments, Milagro and Project GRAND (with Notre Dame University), the Fermilab collider experiment, DZero, and two neutrino experiments, IMB and Super-Kamiokande. Working on these experiments was for me the moment of revelation: 'Wow, there is more to physics than boxes on an incline!'.

Continuing the neutrino physics theme, I completed my Ph.D at Penn working on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), located in Sudbury, Ontario. Raised in a small, farming town in central California with skin-scorching summers, the Sudbury winters came as a bit of a shock (whereas the lack of night life did not). SNO, located at the 6,800 ft level of the Inco Creighton nickel mine, afforded not only the opportunity to study solar neutrinos but also the technics and methods of large scale mining. In addition to SNO, Sudbury's other claim to fame is the largest smoke stack in the world, the Super Stack, which serves as the ever present reminder of the hundreds of miles of tunnels snaking under the surface.

After completing my thesis, I moved a little closer to surface to work on ATLAS, which is a mere 300 ft underground. With others at UChicago, I work on the Tile Calorimeter subsystem of ATLAS. I live full time near CERN in a quaint little house in the french countryside and now get to watch the sunrise over Mont Blanc instead of the Super Stack (a definite improvement). As the turn-on of the LHC approaches the anticipation in the air is undeniable; what will we discover? Many people have theories, no one has answers. Yet. One thing is for sure, it is going to be one exciting year and I am glad to have the opportunity to be working at the heart of the action.

Aside from physics, I enjoy spending my leisure time in various athletic pursuits. At UCI, I competed for four years on the crew team. This meant 5am practices, six days a weeks which served as an excellent excuse to why I was always sleeping in class. I still row including racing once a year with my former UCI teammates. Annually I torture myself by training for a marathon, promise myself by the end of the race that I will never, ever do this again and then start the entire process over again the following year. I also love to backpack. Working in the hyper-connected world of physics, there is nothing like being a 3-4 day hike from the nearest civilization with no email, no cell phones, no newspapers, no interruptions.

I currently work at the University of Heidelberg.