Working with theoretical physics professor Tonnis ter Veldhuis, Mansaray (Freetown, Sierra Leone) focused on the mysterious Dark Matter, a hot area of physics at the intersection of elementary particle physics and astrophysics.

“We looked at models of physics that go beyond the standard theory to include Dark Matter and the recently observed—and widely celebrated—Higgs boson,” says Mansaray, who majored in mathematics as well as physics. “Dark Matter is believed to make up 23 percent of all the ‘stuff’ in the universe, with visible matter comprising 4 percent, and the rest attributed to Dark Energy.”

As ter Veldhuis explains, “The cross-section properties of Dark Matter suggest how likely the Dark Matter particle is to interact with visible particles like atoms or with itself. Using a software package and writing programs, Ishiaka has calculated these cross-sections for new theoretical models.”

Experimental data from ongoing experiments such as the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search in Northern Minnesota’s Soudan mine are used to test and refine the theoretical models.

“It was thrilling and rewarding to hear of the July discovery of the Higgs-like boson at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, Geneva,” says Mansaray. “My research has been so closely related to that work. Some of the assumptions built into the calculation of the Dark Matter particle cross-sections suggest that a pair of dark matter particles could possibly annihilate and produce a photon and a Higgs boson in the process.” 

Conducting cutting-edge research really whetted Mansaray’s appetite for theoretical physics. Last month he began a teaching fellowship at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, where he instructs high school physics while earning a master’s degree in education through the University of Pennsylvania. After gaining teaching experience, Mansaray plans to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics.

October 15 2012

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