Testing circuits for the particle physics of the future

Joseph Hashem

SMU senior Joseph Hashem discusses findings on his latest work.

SMU senior Joseph Hashem has been working in the Optoelectronics Laboratory in the Physics Department with an Undergraduate Research Assistantship since his junior year. This is a state-of-the- art laboratory that builds optical-electronics components for particle physics detectors. The most notable of these experiments is the ATLAS Experiment, part of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.

Joseph became very interested in the project “after learning about the research being done in the lab while I was taking Dr. Jingbo Ye’s Electricity and Magnetism course.” This ready ability to learn from and then work with professors on their research projects is a key emphasis of the SMU program.

Joseph has been working to calibrate an instrument used to measure exceedingly small electrical currents corresponding to about one trillionth the current that flows through a 60-watt light-bulb. Measuring such small currents generally requires a calibration of laboratory instruments by an external company, and this can become expensive. For the Optoelectronics Lab, such precision is required by studies of the radiation effects on application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).

As a Hamilton Scholar in 2009-10, Joseph developed a method to use Ohm’s Law to perform this calibration. This has been an important contribution to the lab according to Professor Ye, who supervises the research. Before this calibration, “we could not estimate the measurement precision in our tests.” The overall ASIC research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy for particle physics experiments.

Joseph has submitted his results as a paper to the American Journal of Physics this spring. This has “given me valuable research experience,” says Joseph, and it was an important element in propelling him to graduate school next year.

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