Professor of Physics at Yale University appointed Deputy Director and Head of Research at Fermilab

Professor Bonnie Fleming of Yale University’s Department of Physics is leaving the university to become chief research officer and deputy director at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Akash Chekka and Valentina Simon

9:05 PM, September 22, 2022

Contribution of reporter and reporter team work

Courtesy of Fermilab Creative Services

Bonnie Fleming, a professor of physics at Yale University, left after 18 years to lead the research department at the nation’s leading laboratory for particle physics and accelerometer science.

Fleming, a faculty member and research scientist in Yale University’s Department of Physics, has been appointed deputy director and chief research officer for the U.S. Department of Energy. Fermi National Accelerators Laboratorylocated outside of Chicago, Illinois.

She will have a joint appointment as a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, where she will continue her research in a liquid-argon time-projection chamber. Fleming has been involved in Fermilab’s trials since 1997, but is now moving from a research-focused role to one focused on leadership within the organization.

“I’ll still be involved with neutrinos, but I’m playing a different role,” Fleming told the paper.

The new position includes managing research at the Accelerator Complex, scientific computing, working on particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider, and promoting Fermilab’s newer quantum science efforts.

Fleming’s research career was defined by the study of neutrinos, small fundamental particles with near zero mass and zero electric charge. She is now expanding her role from being a collaborator on neutrino-focused projects to leading an entire laboratory investigation into particle physics.

One of the challenges you face in this new role is the implementation of DUNE The largest particle physics project ever in the United States. DUNE will extend from Fermilab, based in Illinois, to South Dakota in order to discover subtle differences in neutrino and antineutrino oscillation, hoping to determine how matter was produced in the early universe. DUNE is scheduled to complete construction by 2029.

Fleming’s involvement in neutrino research and its collaboration with Fermilab through DUNE and Microbone formed her time at Yale University.

Dr. Karsten Heeger, chair of the Yale University Department of Physics, wrote to the news. On the research side, she led the development of liquid argon neutrino detectors at Yale University and research and development on these detectors at Wright’s new laboratory. I recently worked in the department as Director of Graduate Studies and assisted in leading the program during the pandemic.”

Eighteen years ago, when Fleming first came to Yale University, she founded Science investigations for girlsIt is a program designed to motivate girls of middle school age to pursue scientific careers. The program will continue at Yale University under the leadership of Rona Ramos, Lecturer in the Department of Physics.

Fleming hopes to continue promoting girls’ science education through programs at Fermilab and possibly also at the University of Chicago. In fact, it was Fleming’s involvement with Girls’ Scientific Salon as a fellow Fermilab Lederman that sparked the girls’ scientific investigation.

At Yale University, Fleming conducted research into neutrino detection mechanisms. Initially designed in Europe, liquid-argon time-drop chambers were brought to the United States for the first time in 2007 by the Fleming Laboratory.

The devices have since been incorporated into the MicroBooNE and DUNE experiments due to their incredible accuracy in detecting neutrino vibrations. Fleming will continue her neutrino research at the University of Chicago as a Professor in the Department of Physics.

Peter Littlewood, chair of the physics department at the University of Chicago, looks forward to welcoming Fleming to the university’s physics community.

“The fact that liquid argon reagents are the reagents of choice is largely driven by Fleming and all of her research,” Littlewood said. “Having this program here is tremendous to us. Accelerator-based neutrino physics is the number one thing that the high energy community in the United States is pushing. Having this work here puts our department at the center of what will become a very exciting few decades of research in this field.”

The particle physics community is currently in the midst of a planning process that occurs every decade with the Operation Critical P5 subpanel, a conference intended to advise US investments in particle physics.

Scientists are gathering to question the future of American and international particle physics, and the sub-panel will soon embark on several months of meetings. With Fermilab involved in these conversations, Fleming will be at the forefront of new projects that emerge from the discussion.

Fleming described her role as “a real eye opening in terms of the breath of science that includes the lab’s mission.”

Fleming began her role as Fermilab’s Chief Research Officer and Deputy Director on September 6, 2022.

Valentina Simon

Valentina Simon covers stories on astronomy, computer science, and engineering. She is a student at Timothy Dwight College majoring in data science and statistics.

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