Frontiers of Discovery at SMU

The SMU Department of Physics works at the major frontiers of physics, including the Energy Frontier (ATLAS and D0 Experiments), the Intensity Frontier (NOνA), and the Cosmic Frontier (SuperCDMS, DESI and ROTSE). Our physicists work at SMU and across the globe, making national and international impact with their work and helping to train and prepare the next generation of creative, innovative, and generative scientists.

SMU physicists are active in understanding the origin of mass, mapping the properties of the elusive and mysterious neutrino, identifying dark matter, studying the expansion history of the universe, and crafting a powerful and consistent theoretical framework to better understand and predict the universe. Please find below more information about our engagement in the frontiers of physics and the interlinking of those frontiers.

Experimental High Energy Physics



D0 (Fermilab)
(D0 at SMU)

(NOνA at SMU)

Overview of Experimental Program


The SMU High Energy Particle Physics group studies the properties of the most fundamental constituents of matter and the laws governing their behavior. Some of the most important questions today concern: the origin of elementary particle masses, and the apparent asymmetry between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Several large, accelerator based experiments address these questions. SMU physicists work on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland and on the D0 and NOνA experiments based at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. All of these areas touch on leading questions that challenge modern physics.

The ATLAS and D0 experiments are both multi-purpose, large particle detectors located at hadron colliders, and represent frontiers of proton-proton and proton-antiproton collider physics, respectively. The NOνA experiment is making precision studies of the flavor oscillations of the elusive neutrino.

Learn more about each experimental program here at SMU

Cosmology and Astrophysics


DESI (Kitt Peak)

ROTSE (McDonald Obs.)

(SuperCDMS at SMU)

Overview of Program


The SMU Cosmology and Astrophysics group probes matter and energy. studies the properties of the most fundamental constituents of matter and the laws governing their behavior. Two of the most important questions today concern the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Several observational experiments address these questions. SMU physicists work deep underground in SNOLAB in Sudbury, Canada looking for evidence of dark matter particles, or on top of mountains at McDonald Observatory and Kitt Peak National Observatory, observing the universe's expansion.

The SuperCDMS-SNOLAB experiment is the current-generation of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search, and employs solid-state detectors to "listen" for the passage of dark matter particles through the Earth. The ROTSE project utilizes fast, robotic telescopes to discover and study rapidly changing celestial phenomena, including supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. DESI is a next-generation galaxy survey that utilizes a massive array of robotically controlled optical fibers to study the evolution of the large scale structure of the universe.

Learn more about each observational program here at SMU

Theoretical High Energy Physics


works on lightcone quantization and its applications in QCD to hadronic physics, including generalised parton distributions, chiral symmetry breaking, relativistic string representations. In particular, he continues to develop transverse lattice gauge theory as a quantitative tool for computing the lightcone wavefunctions of hadrons.


applies nonperturbative computational methods to study quantum field theories, especially quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of the strong interactions. He is part of the HPQCD collaboration, which seeks to employ improved actions defined on a spacetime lattice to make high-precision comparisons of QCD with experimental data for heavy-quark systems. One specific interest is the development of methods to include dynamical light quarks in these calculations. Past research, as part of the NRQCD collaboration, produced accurate calculations of the strong coupling constant, the mass of the b quark, and the spectra of the upsilon and charm systems.


works on theoretical computations describing scattering of elementary particles at modern colliders. His expertise is in QCD resummation calculations, and he is also involved in the multi-variate statistical analysis of diverse experimental data with the goal to understand the internal structure of protons and neutrons. He contributes to the determination of widely used CTEQ parton distribution functions necessary for state-of-the-art calculations at CERN Large Hadron Collider. Nadolsky is an author of 100+ research publications, including highly cited papers on CT/CTEQ sets of parton distributions and transverse momentum resummation.


is active in the CTEQ collaboration and he spent the 1997-98 year on sabbatical at Fermilab to expand research ties with both theorists and experimentalists in the NuTeV, D Ø, and CDF collaborations. He is also a member of the LHC ATLAS collaboration. He developed the ACOT scheme for computing processes involving heavy quarks, and this has been used in the analysis of deeply inelastic scattering data. Encouraged by the leptoproduction results, this work was extended to the hadroproduction case applicable for Fermilab Run II and LHC. On the theoretical side, a "Simplified-ACOT" formalism has been developed to facilitate higher order calculations. These tools are being used to analyze heavy quark data, and are being incorporated into the CTEQ global analysis code which generates the widely used parton distribution functions. In 2005 he was elected an APS Fellow for "For significant contributions to understanding nucleon structure and heavy quark production in perturbative quantum chromodynamics."  


works on composite operator renormalization in perturbative QCD, heavy quark hadroproduction, and heavy quark leptoproduction. With Olness, he uses heavy quark parton distribution functions to resum badly behaved perturbation series, yielding cross section calculations with reduced theoretical uncertainty due to factorization scale dependence. He is the creator and maintainer of the CTEQ collaboration's world wide web page at -- the primary distribution site for the CTEQ parton distribution functions, the Handbook of Perturbative QCD, and CTEQ summer school information.


is our resident Higgs hunter, he has been active in refining search strategies for Higgs discovery at an upgraded Tevatron, the LHC, and the Next Linear Collider. His interests include SUSY as well as Non-SUSY models of electroweak symmetry breaking. More recently Vega has been involved in the study of Effective Lagrangians for the model independent parametrization of physics beyond the standard model. He is also working on novel approaches for determining neutrino masses. His collaborators include D.A. Dicus (UT Austin), J.F. Gunion (UC Davis), and J. Wudka (UC Riverside).