Originally published in the Fall 2016 UWinnipeg Magazine.
Melissa Anderson grew up in Fox Lake Cree Nation and came to Winnipeg when she was 16 years old. The mother of three is now in her third year of a four-year Bachelor of Science (physics) degree. She is working with Dr. Jeff Martin on the neutron electric dipole moment experiment at TRIUMF* that aims to smash the standard model of particle physics by discovering new sources of symmetry violation.
The symmetry being tested is particle-antiparticle symmetry, and so the results relate to the question of why the universe appears to be made of matter as opposed to antimatter.
“The experimental technique relies on nuclear magnetic resonance,” explains Martin. “In fact, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was invented because of experiments like this one. As in MRI scanners, the experiment needs a very uniform and stable magnetic field in order for the measurement to succeed and Melissa has designed an electromagnet that achieves these requirements.”
Anderson used a new technique borrowed from Martin’s colleague, Dr. Christopher Crawford at the University of Kentucky.
“The technique is so new that it has never been published in a scholarly journal,” states Martin. “Melissa learned and taught us this new technique and used it to design a number of possible coil setups. The best one of these was selected by our international collaboration as the nominal design for the neutron experiment. We plan to work with a company in Winnipeg to build a prototype of coil in the near future.”
This past October, Anderson presented her research at the annual Fall Meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society in Vancouver, BC. The event is held in Canada just once every 20 years.
“This was a great opportunity for Melissa,” notes Martin. “It gave her exposure to a group of world-leading physicists, whom she might not normally meet until graduate school.”
Anderson concurs, adding that the experience will benefit her future endeavours in the field of physics. She adds: “I am grateful for having the opportunity to meet and talk with such a prestigious group of scientists. And I really enjoyed the summer research I performed with Jeff Martin and Russ Mammei.”
*UWinnipeg has six faculty members who participate in TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics: Dr. Chris Bidinosti, Dr. Blair Jamieson, Dr. Russell Mammei, Dr. Jeff Martin, Dr. Thomas Lindner (adjunct professor from TRIUMF), and chemist Dr. Chris Wiebe. UWinnipeg became an Associate Member of the TRIUMF Consortium in 2011, after the announcement of UWinnipeg’s leadership in creating a new ultracold neutron source there in 2009.