Sam Mullin

From the Realm of Science Fiction to Science Reality

By Stacy Kish on August 4, 2010

Fellow: Sam Mullin
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Undergrad: University of California, Riverside
Graduate school: University of California, Santa Barbara
Keywords: Department of Energy, Office of Science, Graduate Fellow program, Large Hadron Collider, Standard Model

Growing up in Southern California, Sam Mullin occupied his free time reading science fiction and fantasy books or playing video games. “I decided to go into particle physics after reading a few popular books on string theory and other “new physics” ideas,” begins Mullin. Today, he is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a DOE Office of Science Graduate Fellow.

Mullin admits that his interest in physics started with his dad. “I knew about quarks before I learned about atoms in school,” said Mullin. “He was always explaining how things worked on a physics level.” “I also picked up bits and pieces of more complicated physics from listening to him explain them to other people.”

Mullin’s research examines the most fundamental physical laws that govern our universe. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, D0 mesons (particles made of quarks – the same material that makes up protons and neutrons) should almost never decay into electrons or muons. Mullin explains, “Several “new physics” models predict these decays to occur at much higher rates.” Mullin is looking for these decays. “I am trying to find a simplified way of characterizing complicated new physics theories so that they can be more easily compared to the data,” he explains.

For the past two years Mullin has worked at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab, a DOE national laboratory. This summer, he started working at Large Hadron Collider at CERN, in Switzerland. “This fellowship should give me the opportunity to spend more time focusing on my classes and working on research,” concludes Mullin.

Stacy Kish is a Science Writer with the Office of Science