Robin Erbacher

I'm a professor of physics at the University of California, Davis. I work on both the CMS experiment at the LHC, and the CDF experiment at Fermilab's Tevatron. My recent interests have centered around searching for new signals of physics, which could indicate the existence of particles or forces that have never been seen before, by studying the production and properties of top quarks.

The top quark is the most recently discovered quark, having been found at Fermilab in 1995 by the CDF and D0 collaborations. We have studied it now for more than 15 years, but its peculiarly large mass makes it very interesting, and a great candidate to provide hints of what may lie beyond our current knowledge of the "Standard Model" of particle physics. I am also looking for new particles that mimic top quark signatures, such as hypothetical new heavy quarks. With the larger energies at the LHC, we have the opportunity to peer more deeply into unexplored territory than has ever been done before... and we are hoping to discover something exciting there!

I was born in Los Angeles but relocated with my family to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was six years old. I finally learned what physics was all about when I took an introductory course as a senior in high school. I was hooked! I had watched enough Carl Sagan movies to believe I wanted to become an astrophysicist. In college at U.C. San Diego, however, I learned about the science of fundamental particles and interactions, which could help explain the nature of matter. Furthermore, I discovered I could work during the summer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), and I had the chance to get my hands dirty in experimental particle physics. I haven't left since!

My graduate years were spent at Stanford University in Northern California, where I worked on several "fixed target" experiments at SLAC, studying the nature of the spin of the nucleons, by probing inside or protons and neutrons using a high energy electron beam. My postdoctoral work was completely different: I went to Fermilab near Chicago to work at the Tevatron, which collides beams of protons with anti-protons. I moved to U.C. Davis in 2004 and continued my work on CDF, but also joined the CMS experiment at the LHC.

When I'm not doing research, teaching, traveling, mentoring students and postdocs, or doing professional or committee work (your duties do seem to expand quite a bit at the faculty level), I enjoy spending time with my young son, my husband, and my family. I have always been into sports, having participated in basketball, volleyball and track, and then a lot of aerobics while in college. Unfortunately these days I try hard to get a jog in 2-3 times per week, and I'm not always successful. I like water skiing, hiking, and snow skiing during the appropriate seasons as well. But the big surprise that I learned about myself, not ever considering myself a very "domestic" type, is that I love gardening. I discovered this as a postdoc, and I think it is in part because you can often see immediate results from your creativity and your work. In particle physics at times you have to wait days, or sometimes weeks, years, or decades, to see results from any given project. In the garden: maximum wait is a season... and you get to be outside!