One of the most powerful ways to probe the fundamental structure of nature is to slam together particles and study their collision debris. I am a theoretical particle physicist, so I study virtual collisions -- on my chalkboard, through pen-and-paper calculations, and using software simulations. Through my research, I develop new ways to analyze and interpret real collision data from experiments like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), with the ultimate goal of advancing our knowledge of fundamental physics.

The DOE Early Career Award provided me with essential support to solidify my research program.

For LHC data analysis, I focused primarily on jets. Jets are collimated sprays of particles (sprays that are manipulated to be accurately parallel) that the LHC copiously produces. I developed new methods that more accurately measure jets and separate them into categories.

For LHC data interpretation, I focused primarily on supersymmetry. Supersymmetry is a hypothesized extension of space and time that involves new "quantum" dimensions. I identified new ways to glean possible evidence for supersymmetry in LHC data.

Beyond the LHC, I engaged in the hunt for dark matterDark matter is a mysterious substance that shapes the cosmos via gravity. I created conceptual designs for new experiments that might one day detect dark matter in the laboratory.

Most importantly, the DOE Early Career Award helped me build my research group and train the next generation of scientists. Theoretical particle physics is a collaborative endeavor. The students and postdocs in my group contributed both technical expertise and conceptual insights to our joint research. I am continuously energized by their enthusiasm, creativity, and curiosity about our universe.


Jesse Thaler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The Early Career Research Program provides financial support that is foundational to early career investigators, enabling them to define and direct independent research in areas important to DOE missions. The development of outstanding scientists and research leaders 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.


Interpreting New Data from the High Energy Frontier

This research aims to maximize the discovery potential of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) by using theoretical insights in high energy physics to galvanize the search for new physics. The LHC will push the frontiers of fundamental physics through high energy particle collisions. However, gleaning evidence for new physics from the overwhelming standard model background is a challenging task, and innovative methods in data analysis and interpretation are needed to convert raw experimental measurements into evidence for new physics.    

In this research, three aspects of LHC physics in which theoretical insights can play a crucial role will be addressed. First, to propose new LHC searches, novel LHC signals for new physics scenarios involving supersymmetry and dark matter will be identified.  

Second, to increase experimental sensitivities in existing LHC searches, the PI will propose new data analysis techniques to better measure and identify jets produced in high energy collisions.   

Third, to make signal extraction more robust, the PI will improve Standard Model background predictions.

Through this research on new physics searches at the high energy frontier, this project will help achieve the ultimate goal of the LHC: to discover what new phenomena lie beyond the standard model.


N. Craig, M. McCullough, and J. Thaler, “Flavor mediation delivers natural SUSY." JHEP 1206, 046 (2012). [DOI: 10.1007/JHEP06(2012)046]

A.J. Larkoski, S. Marzani, G. Soyez, and J. Thaler, “Soft drop.” JHEP 1405, 146 (2014). [DOI: 10.1007/JHEP05(2014)146]

Y. Kahn, B. R. Safdi, and J. Thaler, “Broadband and resonant approaches to axion dark matter detection.” Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 141801 (2016). [DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.141801]

DOE Explains… offers straightforward explanations of key words and concepts in fundamental science. It also describes how these concepts apply to the work that the Department of Energy’s Office of Science conducts as it helps the United States excel in research across the scientific spectrum. For more information on dark matter and DOE’s research in this area, please go to “DOE Explains…Dark Matter.”


Additional profiles of the Early Career Research Program award recipients can be found on the Early Career Program Page.

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.

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