York Professors Receive Rare Department of Energy Grant

Dr. James Popp

For immediate release
August 15, 2013
Contact: Marcia Moxam Comrie, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd
mcomrie@york.cuny.edu Jamaica, NY 11451
York Professors Receive Rare Department of Energy Grant
Two York College/CUNY professors have won a grant of $291,000 from the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE), toward a joint project at Fermilab, in Batavia, Illinois; the grant is the first of its kind from the DOE to any CUNY college, most likely, in more than a decade.
Dr. James Popp and Dr. Kevin Lynch received the grant to support their research on the Muon-to-Electron Conversion (or Mu2e) project, whose design and construction will be ongoing until at least 2019. Thereafter, data collection will begin and last at least three years in order to execute this high-sensitivity search for the extremely rare and as-yet unseen decay of a muon directly into an electron.
“The Mu2e Collaboration has proposed, and Fermilab has granted, stage one approval to a new experiment to search for charged lepton flavor violation with unprecedented sensitivity…,” said Dr. Popp “We will measure the rate of the coherent neutrinoless conversion of a negatively charged muon into an electron in the field of a nucleus relative to the rate of the muon capture process,” that is, the rate of muon capture by the nucleus.
Dr. Lynch explained that the international project involves scientists from numerous other colleges, universities, and National Laboratories who have come together as a collective to realize the ambitious project that will reveal more about the universe.
“On the physics side, we’re hoping it will shake up our understanding of the structure of the universe,” said Lynch, an expert in experimental particle physics, data acquisition and data analysis. “As particle physicists, we try to understand, as much as we can, the makeup of the universe: ‘For example: why do we need both protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei, and why are these particles made up of yet other things?’”
In addition to their work at Fermilab, the two professors are also engaged in muon beamline simulation and carrying out tests to design the Mu2e electron tracking detector at York; and are actively engaging their York students in the process. The two are uniquely qualified to represent York on this exciting project. Lynch, who also serves as the Pre-engineering coordinator at York, earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Master’s and PhD from Boston University. He has also published and presented extensively in his field and is an in-demand mentor at York.
Popp is not new to Fermilab. He spent Academic Year 2009 – 2011 at the prestigious lab where he worked on advancing the Mu2e Project, and remarked at the time that no one else within CUNY is doing this type of research. He is excited about this new turn of events.
“It only happens once in a great while for the Department of Energy to fund a newly established group to study high energy physics,” said Dr. Popp, whose expertise includes experimental elementary particle physics, ultra-relativistic heavy ion collision physics, relativistic plasmas, and health physics. “They are very project-driven. The goal is lofty but the knowledge we gain from the funding presents problems that young scientists and engineers can use.”
Popp who holds the PhD in Physics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Masters in Physics from Northern Illinois University and Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Physics respectively, from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has also published and presented extensively in his field. His affiliation with Fermilab pre-dates his tenure at York.
The professors have revealed it was “an uphill battle to secure the grant” as DOE contended that York has no known history in this area of research.

York College, a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY), offers baccalaureate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, accounting and business, journalism, communications technology, computer science, social work, teacher education and various health profession including nursing and physician assistant studies. York is the only CUNY senior college offering majors in gerontology, biotechnology, information systems management, aviation management; and a BS/MS in occupational therapy. For more information: http://www.york.cuny.edu