U.S. Department of Energy

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Eric Church

Physicist
Dr. Eric Church
Dr. Eric Church

Dr. Eric Church is an experimental particle physicist. His research interests are in the areas of neutrino physics and nucleon decay — both areas that shed light on beyond-Standard-Model physics. His work is primarily on liquid argon time projection chambers (LArTPCs), which give very high event detection fidelity for this area of physics, and on which U.S. particle physics has staked an important part of its future. Dr. Church also contributes to systems at PNNL that detect underground explosions through particular trace isotopes. His work in this area is particularly on software to run the detector systems and perform the analysis on events which may indicate violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Dr. Church is the Principle Investigator for LArTPC physics for PNNL’s Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology (NPAC) Initiative.

Dr. Church was a research scientist at Yale and Fermilab in the years before coming to PNNL. He was the project manager for the data acquisition for the MicroBooNE detector and holds the equivalent title for the SBND detector at Fermilab. He was also analysis tools convener on MicroBooNE and an early convener of the large LArSoft software package. MicroBooNE and SBND are part of a 3-detector program to rule out or confirm the existence of a ~1 eV sterile neutrino. Along with  the very large 34 kton DUNE detector, set to run in the mid-2020s, these detectors are all LArTPCs, which represent the latest technology in neutrino and particle physics, scalable to very large sizes, and for which detection and analysis technology is maturing rapidly. In addition to its other neutrino science roles, DUNE will allow the search for the very exciting possibility of nucleon decay, something which must occur for widely-anticipated grand unified theories of particle physics to be given credence.

Dr. Church received B.S. degrees in 1986 in Physics and Electrical Engineering at New Mexico State University, his M.S. Degrees in 1988 in Nuclear Engineering and in Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his PhD. in Physics in 1996 at the University of Washington. His graduate work was on the b quark fragmentation function — how the b quark forms B hadrons — at the SLD detector at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. As a post-doctoral scientist, Dr. Church worked on the LSND detector at Los Alamos and on the MiniBooNE detector at Fermilab. Those detectors purport to see evidence of a 4th — or "sterile" — neutrino beyond the neutrinos accommodated by the standard three neutrino framework.

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