[The University of Texas at Austin: What starts here changes the world]
[Photo of Sacha Kopp]

Sacha Kopp

Professor and Associate Dean, CNS

Areas of ResearchExperimental HEP; CP violation; weak decays of heavy quarks; neutriono oscillations
OfficeRLM 10.218
Phone(512) 471-0461
Home Pagehttp://www.hep.utexas.edu/~kopp/
Curriculum VitaeClick to view (PDF document)

The best thing about learning physics is figuring out ways to observe or confirm (or contradict!) predictions we read about in textbooks or research articles. That might be why my greatest passion is designing and performing experiments. It began in college when Nobel laureate Jim Cronin was teaching my sophomore mechanics lab and we were learning about spinning, precessing, and nutating tops. He taught us regression of data, error analysis, and statistical fitting of data. Along the way, physics changed from ‘did I get the right answer?’ to ‘does my data confirm or refute someone’s hypothesis?’

That’s when I knew I would do physics. I enjoy the same approach even today: although all of my experiments have been at major particle accelerator labs like Fermilab outside Chicago, my students and I have had a good time designing and building instruments here in Austin, and using them at the accelerator to see if nature will prove my theoretical physicist friends correct.

As the Physics Department Associate Chairman for Undergraduate Affairs, I assist the Chairman with the undergraduate curriculum, creating outside research and informal learning opportunities for students, advising students toward their career goals, and helping students find their passion for physics, science, and their university experience. I’ve always wanted to contribute to that feeling of community, and that’s what I try to do in my role as Associate Chair here at UT. That, and I like to drop watermelons off the building to measure the acceleration, g, from gravity.

My research group studies the smallest building blocks of known universe. Atoms, the building blocks conjectured already by the Greeks, are today known to be subdivided into smaller bits. Today we know there are 12 building blocks of all matter, some called quarks and others called leptons. I worked on the research team at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory that discovered the largest of these basic building blocks, the top quark, in 1994, and also performed experiments at Fermilab and the Cornell Electron Storage Ring. Of late, I am studying a particle called the neutrino. Neutrinos are in the lepton family and are very small (<1 billionth the size and mass of an atom), yet are the most abundant particle in the universe. Ironically, they interact very weakly with other particles, and we know comparatively little about them. I have performed an experiment at Fermilab to confirm that they do, in fact, have a non-zero mass. More recently, I am working on another Fermilab experiment to measure the strength of the interaction between neutrinos and other particles. I find neutrinos fascinating because, as the most abundant particle in the universe, they may tell us about how rapidly the universe expands or why it is full of matter and no anti-matter. My students have gone on to prestigious fellowships at national laboratories and one even won the 2008 Best Doctoral Thesis Prize from the American Physical Society.

Physics Faculty
Physical Science
Administrative Staff
PCG Staff