Neutrino What? Alumna’s Accomplishment a “Pretty Big Deal”

We asked Meg Millhouse ’08 a few questions about a recent accomplishment: getting her undergraduate thesis published in the American Journal of Physics. As Senior Signature Projects instructor Dave Wang put it, “This is a Pretty Big Deal.” Check out the abstract or rent the article to read online here.

In simple terms, what is your thesis about?

In one sentence: Using neutrino oscillations to map density profiles.

The slightly longer version: Neutrinos are small, nearly massless particles that exist in three flavors (“flavor” is really the technical term used).  Neutrinos can actually change flavors throughout their lifetime – this is called “neutrino oscillations.” How quickly neutrinos switch from one flavor to another and back again is (weakly) dependent on the density of matter through which they are traveling. In my thesis, I assumed you could send a beam of neutrinos through a piece of matter with unknown length/density, and measure their flavors at the beginning and end – essentially measuring the rate of oscillations. I then used that (simulated) data to try to determine the length and density of the matter.

How did it get published? At Reed every senior has to write a thesis at the end of which you have an oral defense. One of the professors on my orals board said she enjoyed my thesis and told my advisor and me that we should look in to getting published. My advisor was super helpful and did a lot of work to turn my 50ish-page thesis into a 15-page paper.

How would you describe your college experience overall? I had the best time in college.  Academically it was very challenging, but I learned a lot. I also made some great friends. Reedies are definitely the weirdest and coolest people out there.

Did your experience at Bay contribute to your interest in your field of study? Bay was definitely a major influence in my decision to pursue science. I don’t think at many other schools I could have been able to take so many awesome science classes.

Congrats, Meg!