Newswise — When I was awarded the DOE Early Career Award in 2010, I was just beginning my career as a PI at UC Santa Barbara. At the time, I had two big things on my plate, and this award helped with both of them.

First, as a postdoc I had been working on the KATRIN experiment; this is a large international collaboration of nuclear physicists trying to measure the mass of the neutrino. Early Career grant support allowed me to start my KATRIN group at Santa Barbara. With a postdoc, a graduate student, and a stellar undergraduate as a technician, we built KATRIN's "electron gun" - an unusual little accelerator which could send electron beams on precise spiral paths through KATRIN's complex magnetic innards. The apparatus is installed and working well.

Second, my postdoc advisor and I had an idea in 2008/2009 that it might be possible--using some never-before-tried radio-detection methods--to see the neutrino mass in an apparatus much simpler than KATRIN's. As a young PI, I was eager to follow up on this idea, but funding such an effort would have been very challenging and fraught with uncertainty without the long timescale of the Early Career program and the freedom to follow my nose.  This turned from an idea into a real collaboration; it is now called "Project 8" and involves eight universities, two national labs, and some young collaborators supported by their own Early Career awards! 


Benjamin Monreal is the Agnar Pytte Associate Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics at Case Western Reserve University.


The Early Career Award program provides financial support that is foundational to young scientists, freeing them to focus on executing their research goals. The development of outstanding scientists early in their careers is of paramount importance to the Department of Energy Office of Science. By investing in the next generation of researchers, the Office of Science champions lifelong careers in discovery science. 

For more information, please go to the Early Career Research Program.


New Experiments to Measure the Neutrino Mass Scale

After eighty years of study, much is known about the neutrino's three family structure, its handedness, and fundamental role in the particle zoo. While the mass differences between neutrino types are known, the absolute masses themselves are not known. This project will make two major efforts at such a measurement: the European‐American KATRIN experiment currently being fabricated and Project 8, a concept that shows promise for a very sensitive measurement. KATRIN will measure the effect of the neutrino mass on the rare end‐point electrons in tritium beta decay; this experiment will have sensitivity to a neutrino mass of 0.2 eV. The Project 8 concept will exploit the very weak microwaves emitted by low-energy electrons as they traverse a strong magnetic field. This project will provide interdisciplinary research and a laboratory scale proof‐of‐principle for a possible neutrino mass measurement with a sensitivity down to about 0.05 eV.


D.M. Asner, et al. (Project 8 Collaboration), “Single-electron detection and spectroscopy via relativistic cyclotron radiation.” Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 162501 (2015). [DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.162501]

M. Arenz, et al., (KATRIN collaboration), “First transmission of electrons and ions through the KATRIN beamline.” JINST 13, (2018). [DOI: 10.1088/1748-0221/13/04/P04020]



Additional profiles of the 2010 Early Career Award winners can be found at https://www.energy.gov/science/listings/early-career-program.

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.energy.gov/science.