Sarah Demers

I am an assistant professor of physics at Yale University, and I work on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. I am particularly interested in using the signature of one of the standard model particles, the tau lepton, as a probe for new physics. I am also involved in the “trigger” for the experiment. We will see up to 40,000,000 bunches of protons crossing for collisions every second, and we know that we can only handle keeping a few hundred of them per second for our physics. The trigger is responsible for making the important decision of what we keep vs. what we throw away.

It didn’t occur to me to be a physicist until late in high school when one of my teachers suggested it. In college I was a research assistant for a few years working on the Tevatron’s CDF experiment. The top quark had just been discovered when I started college in 1995 and there was (and still is!) lots of excitement in the field of particle physics. I was so hooked on the work, the science and the people that I continued to study particle physics at CDF in graduate school. After graduate school I taught for two years at Roberts Wesleyan College as an assistant professor of physics. I started my postdoc with Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Center in 2006, promptly moving to Switzerland to work on ATLAS. I began as an assistant professor at Yale in 2009.

I have a real interest in outreach activities that encourage people to study science, especially those who might not initially think of it as an option. In particular, we see a dearth of women and many minority groups in physics. The representation gets worse for these particular groups the higher up you go in the ranks, from students to full professors. It’s difficult for people to catch up who start out with a deficiency in math or science training, so I also have an interest in early science education as well.

When I am not working, I am spending time with my husband and our two kids. Both of our children, born in 2008 and 2010, were born in Switzerland at a hospital close to CERN. I had a clear view of the ATLAS detector surface building when I was in labor with my second child, which seemed a bit over the top at the time. I like to spend part of my day obsessively training for some kind of race. I’m a slow runner, swimmer and cyclist, so it certainly isn’t a quest for glory, though I was a decent rower in college. I am currently signed up for a 20 k running race in New Haven that is providing some motivation. Some day I would like to spend more than fifteen minutes cooking a meal, but in the meantime I like to listen to radio programs describing delicious and intricate dinners as I drive to and from Yale.