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Department of Physics News

Kent State Professor Makes Discovery Linked to the "Big Bang"

Posted Jun. 6, 2011
For 23 years, Professor of Physics Declan Keane has worked at Kent State University, extending his passion for research from the classroom into the real world. Keane’s latest accomplishment is another milestone in his impressive career.

Keane was one of three Kent State faculty members recognized as Distinguished Scholar Award recipients at a luncheon ceremony on April 15. The other recipients of the 2011 award are Professor of Music Theodore Albrecht and Professor of Accounting Ran Barniv.

In the mid 1980s, Keane started a project that focused on looking at fragments related to the Big Bang Theory at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y.

"These types of experiments are like a little version of the Big Bang, and allow us to turn the clock back to a millionth of a second after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago," Keane says.

The international research project was led by a team of Kent State researchers and individuals from different countries who worked together to analyze the most massive antinucleus known to date.

The study consisted of examining high-energy collisions of gold nuclei at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which is a 2.4 mile-circumference particle accelerator.

To the eye, the experiment may seem complex, but to Keane the project was just one piece of the puzzle.

"This experiment was basic research where we tried to find out the structure of matter and our universe," Keane says. "You never know when that can have a spinoff to lead you to something else."

Over the course of this project, Keane, along with Professor Spiros Mergetis, worked alongside a team of 300-400 throughout time, which consisted of students and other scholars, to take a deeper look at the events of the Big Bang.

Keane, a native of Dublin, says that the earliest antimatter discoveries led to new kinds of medical imaging and diagnostic information about how blood flows in organs in your body.

"Basic research is like the lottery," Keane says. "A lot of the time you win nothing, but every once and awhile, you hit the jackpot. You have to be willing to play."

Even though Keane’s experiment resulted in success, Keane says the work never ends.

"It (research) is an ongoing thing and can lead you into a new discovery," Keane says. "I don’t expect to ever run out of things to research. It’s very fulfilling type of career.

For more information about Keane’s experiment, visit http://phys.kent.edu/pages/calendar.html.