This work explores the dynamics of the Strong Interaction Force and the properties of hot and dense matter produced in relativistic heavy ion collisions at the newly built Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Lab in New York and the future Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Switzerland. By colliding heavy ions at extreme energies, mesoscopic regions of sufficient temperature are created with conditions favorable for creating quark gluon plasma (QGP), a state of matter that existed during the first few microseconds of our universe. By studying the QGP and how it was created, cools and expands, we can gain new insights into the early universe and the relationship between the most fundamental constituents of matter and the complex array of particles and nuclei that make up the world around us today.
The research focuses on particle multiple scattering in dense nuclear matter. In terms of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), an accepted theory for the strong interaction force, various particle spectra and particle-particle correlations are calculated. The resulting predictions can be compared with observations at RHIC and LHC. Measuring such spectra and correlations will help experimentalists to discover the QGP and enable us to study its properties. With support from this Fellows award, the Principal Investigator also engages in undergraduate and graduate teaching in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University, where she serves as a role model and mentor for women students, and thus encourages young women to participate in science.