Button to scroll to the top of the page.

Updates

News

From the College of Natural Sciences
Font size: +

Can Kilic Tackles Dark Matter, Particle Physics

Can Kilic Tackles Dark Matter, Particle Physics

​Dr. Can Kilic, an assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Physics at The University of Texas at Austin, specializes in theoretical particle physics, the Standard Model, and dark matter models. Dr. Kilic sat with the UT Physics newswriting team to discuss his research, his teaching, and his hopes for the future of science.

Dr. Can Kilic, an assistant professor and researcher in the Department of Physics, during a class lecture on campus.

What does theoretical research in physics entail?

The idea in physics is to find the basic constituents of matter and how they interact with each other. It's a constantly evolving idea. A hundred years ago, the idea was that everything was made of atoms. Then, people started investigating the things that made up the atoms. It's a race to smaller distances and more and more fundamental building blocks. Theorists take what experimentalists have discovered and then make an intellectual leap to figure out what will be next. They even find ways that experimentalists might test these ideas.

What do you focus on in your research?

We have the Standard Model of particle physics. At the time it was developed, many of the particles it discussed were hypothetical and had never been seen. Since then, we have, one by one, detected those particles. In no way has the Standard Model ever been proven wrong. But, despite that, we know there's more to nature. There are phenomena that the Standard Model cannot account for. These phenomena have to be described by an even larger theory that contains the Standard Model but has other ingredients. My job is to try and guess what those other ingredients might be. 

What does your work with dark matter have to do with the Standard Model? 

Dark matter would require an extension of the Standard Model. We know that whatever dark matter is—even though we've never held it in our hands—it will not match the properties of any particle of the Standard Model. There has to be something else out there. 

How is dark matter different from dark energy? 

Dark matter, whatever mysteries it may hold, is almost certainly going to be another particle like those in the Standard Model. Say you have a box with flexible walls, and you put dark matter in it. Then, you double the size of the box. You'd find the density of dark matter had fallen to half of what it was before, just like any other particle in the Standard Model. But if you put dark energy in the box and doubled the size of the box, you'd open the box and find twice as much dark energy as before. It's an exotic thing. 

How do you teach abstract subjects like theoretical physics to students? 

I can only understand a subject if I can make it sound intuitive to myself. Whenever I achieve that, I know I'm ready to teach it. If all you can do is write an equation on a board, maybe it's a sign that you're not ready to teach yet. I always try to give a story behind an equation. If I can communicate to students that nature behaves in a certain way because of the equation, it will stay with them. When a student meets me a year later and tells me that they still remember my course, that's one of the best moments. 

What do you think the future holds for scientific research? 

I hope that we can continually promote the importance of science and the scientific method and that we don't stop appreciating what science has added to society and our civilization. Humans are funny creatures. We get used to things so easily, like carrying a little handheld device that instantly connects us to the rest of the world. All of that comes from science and engineering. Science should not fall off the list of things we constantly promote and support.

​Interview and article by Physics Department interns Megan Kallus, a junior English major, and Max Parks, a fifth-year Physics and Astronomy student.

Graduate Students Ensure Science Under the Stars S...
Pi Pops Up Where You Don’t Expect It

Comments 1

 
Guest - Rob Regan, B.S. Physics, 1991 on Saturday, 16 April 2016 05:27

This was a very enjoyable article to read. As a UT Physics alum, it's great to see such a complex area handled in a way that is readily accessible to general audiences. Thank you.

This was a very enjoyable article to read. As a UT Physics alum, it's great to see such a complex area handled in a way that is readily accessible to general audiences. Thank you.
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Saturday, 11 July 2020

Captcha Image