Recent York physics grad wins prestigious PPD Thesis Prize

Recent York University Faculty of Science physics graduate Elder Pinzon Guerra (PhD ’18) has won the 2019 PPD Thesis Prize presented by the Particle Physics Division of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP).

His thesis, “Measurement of Pion-Carbon Cross Sections at DUET and Measurement of Neutrino Oscillation Parameters at the T2K Experiment,” presents an interesting and clear analyses of physics connected to the Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) experiment conducted at the JPARC accelerator in Japan.

Elder Pinzon Guerra (left) and Professor Sampa Bhadra (right)

“Dr. Pinzon Guerra’s contribution was selected from among a very strong field of PhD theses from universities across the country that reflected the diverse and world-leading particle physics research activities in Canada,” said TRIUMF Vancouver research scientist David Morrissey, Chair of the thesis prize committee. “If you are interested in learning about some of the details of T2K or if you work on the experiment, this is an excellent resource to consult.”

Pinzon Guerra worked under the supervision of York physics Professor Sampa Bhadra of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, who was on the T2K team that received the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. “I am very happy to see Elder’s important contributions and excellent thesis recognized through this award,” she said.

“I’m very honoured to receive this award from the Particle Physics Division of CAP. I was fortunate to be part of a fantastic research group at York led by Dr. Bhadra,” said Pinzon Guerra. “She provided me with all the tools and support needed along the way and was instrumental in the thesis editing process. I also thank all my collaborators from DUET and T2K.”

Pinzon Guerra’s thesis studies how fundamental particles called neutrinos transform from one type to another as they travel through space in a process called “neutrino oscillations.” This was the subject of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. Additionally, it presents a precise measurement of the rate at which pions, another type of subatomic particle, interact with carbon.

His thesis also takes advantage of this measurement of pion interactions to improve the modelling of neutrino interactions with matter and provide the most precise measurement of the parameters that govern the oscillation phenomena using data from the T2K collaboration.

Prestigious journals Physics Review C and Physics Review D published three articles on his thesis work with Pinzon Guerra as lead author.

The prize includes an invitation to give an invited talk at the upcoming CAP Congress, a seminar at TRIUMF and publication of a two-page summary of the thesis work in an issue of Physics in Canada.