Philip von Doetinchem at CERN, Switzerland. (photo by Julia Hoffman)

Philip von Doetinchem, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa physics assistant professor, has won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award for his project, “Dark Matter Identification with Cosmic-Ray Antideuterons,” which is expected to total $708,390 for five years.

Doetinchem’s research program is focused on the study of cosmic rays, charged particles originating from violent events deep in outer space. Cosmic rays include familiar particles such as electrons and protons. In addition, they also contain their very rare antimatter counterparts like positrons (antielectrons) or antiprotons.

Shedding light on dark matter

Said Doetinchem, “These antimatter particles from space potentially serve as messengers to tell us more about the nature of the mysterious dark matter. Dark matter is more than five times more abundant than the matter that we, the solar system, and stars are made of, but we only know that it exists and have no idea what it is exactly.”

Using this award, Doetinchem will attempt the first measurement of cosmic-ray antideuterons, a bound state of antiprotons and antineutrons, which are particularly promising to shed some light on the nature of dark matter. To observe antideuterons in cosmic rays, one must place experiments in space or at very high altitudes. Doetinchem’s team uses the AMS-02 (alpha magnetic spectrometer) cosmic-ray experiment, which is located on the International Space Station, and has been taking data for several years. Furthermore, he is part of the team that has designed the next-generation antideuteron balloon experiment called GAPS (general antiparticle spectrometer).

The award allows Doetinchem to continue supporting his antideuteron research group of postdoctoral fellow, graduate student and undergraduate student researchers, which he built up utilizing UH start-up funding.

Doetinchem’s research activities will be tied to educational efforts. Together with UH’s Student Equity Excellence Diversity program, he will initiate a computing in natural sciences class geared toward high school students from underrepresented-minority and economically-disadvantaged backgrounds to increase the digital literacy level.

More on Doetinchem

The Kaimukī resident received his diploma degree in physics from Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen University, Germany, in 2004 and went on to pursue his doctorate degree in physics from the same institution in 2009. Before starting as assistant professor at UH Mānoa, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley from 2010 to 2013.

The antideuteron group, from left, Amaresh Datta, Rui Pereira, Anirvan Shukla, Philip von Doetinchem and Travis Nelson.