Texas A&M University physicist Rupak Mahapatra has been appointed as director of research engagement for The Texas A&M University System National Laboratories Office (NLO).
Shortly after the Texas A&M System became part of the team tasked with managing and operating Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in 2018, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp established the NLO to execute its various responsibilities but also to increase engagement between researchers throughout the Texas A&M System and all U.S. Department of Energy-affiliated laboratories — Los Alamos, in particular.
Mahapatra, who has been a member of the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy since 2008, says he was a logical choice for the latter assignment, based on his existing relationships with four such national laboratories: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Three years ago, he also was one of six national experts chosen by DOE to carry out its most recent review of all national labs that have research programs in the DOE’s Cosmic Frontier research program, including the aforementioned five labs along with Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
In his efforts to coordinate and facilitate research engagement across the Texas A&M System, Mahapatra works most closely with Associate Vice Chancellor for National Laboratories Management L. Diane Hurtado. He also interacts with Vice Chancellor of Engineering and National Laboratories M. Katherine Banks, who heads the NLO, and Director of Laboratory Mission Support Marvin Adams.
“Already it has been a very fulfilling experience, since I am able to learn a lot about our faculties from engineering and science while trying to help their research map to various missions of national labs, especially Los Alamos,” Mahapatra said.
Mahapatra, who received a 2010 DOE Early Career Research Award and earned selection earlier this fall as a 2019 Texas A&M Presidential Impact Fellow, is an international expert in high-energy particle physics and dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to comprise about one-fifth of the energy and 85 percent of all matter in the universe. He has served since 2003 as a principal investigator with the international Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS) experiment and the affiliated SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment, a world leader in the search for elusive weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). Under his leadership, Texas A&M’s SuperCDMS group has sustained an average of approximately $1 million per year in external funding from various funding agencies. To date, the Mahapatra group has demonstrated the world’s best results for large-mass, low-threshold detector technology, opening new frontiers beyond the specific goal of direct detection of dark matter.
In 2017, Mahapatra founded a new world-class experiment, the Mitchell Institute Neutrino Experiment at Reactor (MINER) housed at the Texas A&M Nuclear Science Center, that utilizes cutting-edge low threshold detectors developed at Texas A&M to precisely measure background signals while also searching for new interactions beyond what is known to exist in the Standard Model of particle physics. The MINER collaboration now has more than 60 scientists from 11 universities in four countries. His diverse background in particle physics experimentation recently has led him into a new area of applied research: medical imaging. Mahapatra has built early prototypes of new-generation positron emission tomography (PET) scan detectors and submitted proposals to fund such work that promises to provide more accurate imaging technology. His research has the potential to deliver earlier diagnostics of diseases such as Alzheimer’s by looking for tau-proteins (bio markers) that are smaller in size than current-generation PET scanners can detect but within the reach of more accurate, next-generation PET scanners that utilize more sophisticated particle physics experimental techniques.
Learn more about the Texas A&M System National Laboratories Office and related opportunities, including the Los Alamos National Lab Collaborative Research Program.
Find additional information on Mahapatra and his research at http://people.physics.tamu.edu/mahapatra/.
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