Newsletter Written by Mac Students
Scientists still don’t really know whether or not dark matter exists. However, many studies are being performed in the hope of finding these elusive particles, which are necessary in many theories, including our current explanation of galaxy rotation. It was my need to explore the inner workings of our universe that led me to the Physics Department at Macalester, where I was offered a chance to research dark matter within the solar system with Professor Tonnis ter Veldhuis.
The rush that comes with having a breakthrough is unforgettable.
We used computer simulation to calculate the trajectories of dark matter particles coming into contact with Jupiter and the sun. Our goal was to calculate how much dark matter would get trapped orbiting in our solar system. This data could then be used to determine the chances of discovering dark matter on earth. Though at times our research was frustrating, the rush that comes with having a breakthrough is unforgettable. It was exciting to know that my research could help in proving a scientific theory. By the end of ten weeks of research, not only was I exceptionally familiar with dark matter, Keplerian orbits, and three-body systems, but I also had experience in programming and working with several different types of computers.
The sense of community during my ten weeks of research was astounding. Students and professors would have friendly discussions regarding their projects, and everyone was always curious to see what new developments had arisen. Weekly picnics gave students a chance to socialize with people from different departments and get to know professors on a more personal level. I made many new friends with whom I share a common interest: science!
My research opportunity helped me to see what sort of role I might play in the scientific community, and what future challenges I will face as a physicist. More importantly, it allowed me to explore and build my own understanding of the universe. I am confident this experience will be helpful now and as I continue on to graduate school.