Carnegie Mellon University
October 17, 2023

Aleesha Kallil Tharayil Receives Pake Fellowship

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Aleesha Kallil Tharayil, who goes by Aleesha KT, is accelerating particle physics research.

"Particle physics has the right combination of mathematics and physics and computation," said KT, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Physics. "It's one way you can get answers to all sorts of questions."

Since she was an undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, KT has looked for answers as a member of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The CMS experiment investigates data from the LHC's high-energy proton collisions and uses this data to investigate new ideas in particle physics.

A member of Assistant Professor of Physics Valentina Dutta's lab, KT uses the CMS data to search for the existence of tau sleptons, a hypothetical elementary particle. Currently, researchers know about a few elementary particles that constitute matter, which are categorized as leptons and quarks. These elementary particles are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. A theory known as supersymmetry, which is a theory of physics beyond the Standard Model, suggests that there are other elementary particles that are partners to the Standard Model particles like leptons, but have different spin. The tau slepton is one of these potential partners.

"Evidence of supersymmetric particles like tau sleptons could help to resolve some of the Standard Model's shortcomings, for example, the lack of explanation for dark matter," Dutta said.

KT said she is excited to explore a new area in physics.

"If there were some different kinds of particles  which we call the super partners of the leptons  then it would be solving a lot of phenomena the current standard model can't address," KT said.

Besides her research, KT is engaged in instrumentation at the Carnegie Mellon Module Assembly Centre (MAC) working towards the high-granularity calorimeter (HGCAL) upgrade project. The HGCAL will be a detector that allows physicists at CMS to acquire detailed, precise data from very high intensity proton collisions.

KT helps to construct hexagonal modules, which will be used as part of the HGCAL. The HGCAL will include 30,000 of these modules, and KT is a part of the team responsible for building and testing 5,000 of them.

"This detector has several components, and one of the components is a calorimeter that we use to measure the energy of the particles that fall on the detector," KT said. "I've been involved with testing whether these modules work once module assembly is done."

Based on her strong commitment to research, KT received the George E. and Marjorie S. Pake Fellowship from the Department of Physics. The fellowship will help support her Ph.D. work.

"Aleesha is a motivated, enthusiastic and inquisitive researcher," Dutta said. "She has the ability to work independently and collaboratively, which are both valuable skills in our field. She has demonstrated the potential to successfully carry out exciting research, which will be supported by the Pake Fellowship."

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