Physics professor Jodi Cooley wins 2012 NSF career award

Jodi Cooley, SMU physics professor and NSF CAREER Award winnerJodi Cooley of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award of more than $1 million for her research toward detecting the particles that are believed to make up dark matter.

NSF Early Career Development Awards are given to junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research in American colleges and universities.

Cooley, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, is an experimental particle physicist working with the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS), a collaboration of 14 institutions from the United States and Canada. Cooley is SMU’s principal investigator for the group.

Scientists theorize that more than 80 percent of all matter in the universe is dark matter, which consists of material that cannot be seen or detected by conventional means. Cooley’s research in the SuperCDMS project is conducted in the Soudan Iron Mine in Soudan, Minnesota, where researchers are shielded from cosmic-ray radiation as they use detector technology to “listen” for the passage of dark matter through the earth. Cooley’s research uses sophisticated equipment to optimize the chances of detecting “weakly interacting massive particles,” also known as WIMPS, which are the particles hypothesized to make up dark matter.

“Her CAREER Award will enable Professor Cooley to extend this research with additional measurements at higher levels of sensitivity and simulations, placing SMU in a leadership role in this cutting-edge field of physics,” said James Quick, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies.

Cooley joined SMU in 2009. She was a postdoctoral scholar in the Physics Department at Stanford University from 2004-09 and a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT from 2003-04. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, a Master of Arts in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000, and a Bachelor of Science in applied math and physics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1997.

The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In the past few decades, NSF-funded researchers have won more than 180 Nobel Prizes.

Cooley is SMU’s second NSF CAREER award winner this year. Joe Camp, J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, received a Faculty Early Career Development Award for his research into improved wireless network design incorporating low frequencies.

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