Testing Grand Unificiation: Do Protons Decay?
Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) postulate the merger of the strong force with the electroweak force at energies around 10^16 GeV. This is a trillion times greater than the center of mass energy at the Large Hadron Collider. Proton decay would provide evidence of GUTs, as the proton is stable within the Standard Model but permitted to decay in a Grand Unified context. The Hyper-Kamiokande experiment is a proposed megatonne water Cherenkov detector to be situated in Japan. Its extremely large volume makes it sensitive to proton decay; this sensitivity may be enhanced by a factor of ten if a small amount of gadolinium (0.1%) is added to identify the atmospheric neutrinos that can fake a proton decay signal. The ANNIE experiment at Fermilab will use Gd-loaded water to measure neutron multiplicity and pioneer this technique. The student will measure neutron yield in neutrino interactions at ANNIE, then use these results to model proton decay at a Gd-enhanced Hyper-Kamiokande. The project is likely to involve spending 6 - 12 months at Fermilab (Chicago) and short-term visits to Japan.