Physics and Astronomy Department

Richie Bonventre ’08 Wins 2018 URA Tollestrup Award

Publication Date

Congratulations to alum Richie Bonventre ’08 (now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) for winning the 2018 Universities Research Association Tollestrup Award. The award recognizes outstanding postdoctoral research at Fermilab or in collaboration with Fermilab scientists.

According to the announcement here “Researchers on the Mu2e experiment look for evidence that muons can change directly into electrons. The telltale signature of this decay is an electron with an energy of 105 million electronvolts (MeV). The rate of this conversion is so rare that in order to catch just one instance of this phenomenon, the detector must track decay products from 1 billion billion muons, which are as many muons as there are grains of sand on Earth’s beaches.

“Bonventre helped develop the electronics for the prototype Mu2e detector as well as the prototype itself. The electronics take measurements of the muon conversion via a part of the detector called the straw tracker. The electrons produced from the muon decay will zip down the approximately 20,000 straws, which have sense wires running through the middle that are a quarter the width of a human hair. He programmed computer chips to record the arrival time and position of the particles passing through the straws. The timing and position information are later used to precisely determine the momentum of the passing particle, which can vary between the momentum of a normal electron and neutrinos that appear from standard muon decay and that of the special 105-MeV electron.”

“I think that Richard is precisely the sort of physicist that Alvin Tollestrup had in mind when he created this award,” said Tollestrup Award Committee Chair Michael J. Mulhearn of the University of California, Davis. “He is someone that intuitively knows what is needed to make an experiment work, and he keeps at it until he has the best result possible.”