Orange Alert

New Physics Professor brings Flavour anomalies to Syracuse University Particle Physics

Posted on: Dec. 12, 2022

The physics department successfully hired several new faculty in the 2021-2022 academic year! Our particle physics experiment search netted Rafael Silva Coutinho, who started as an assistant professor in August 2022. Our gravitational waves experimental search successfully landed Georgia Mansell and Craig Cahillane. Georgia will start as an assistant professor in January 2023 and Craig will start as an assistant professor in August 2023. We also were allowed to hire Alex Nitz as a tenured associate professor. He works on observational astronomy using gravitational wave detectors.

Here, we highlight Prof. Rafael Silva Coutinho, who officially started his tenure track position in August 2022. Rafael works in particle physics on the Large Hardon Collider Beauty (LHCb) experiment. He is an expert in using machine learning to analyze the “big data” coming off the instrument. Indeed, the data coming out of CERN was the first “big data,” but it could really be classified as “humongous data,” and Rafael’s work on Z-fit, an open platform for machine learning, has cut down the hunt for novel particles and exciting events, significantly.

Rafael was born and raised in Brazil. He received his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science degrees from Pontificia Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2008 and 2011, respectively. He moved across the Atlantic and into the northern hemisphere to attend the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom for his PhD. His thesis in the “Studies of charmless three-body b-hadron decays at LHCb” won him the best LHCb-UK prize in 2015. He was snapped up as a postdoctoral researcher by the University of Zurich where he continued as a Fellow.

Rafael was recruited to Syracuse Physics by Sheldon Stone before he passed. (Please see the remembrance of Prof. Stone here). Sheldon could see the promise of Rafael in his fellow position at the University of Zurich. In that position, Rafael mentored students and taught classes. It was more than a postdoc, but not a truly independent position. Now at Syracuse, he is part of the LHCb team, led by Marina Artuso, with Tomasz Skwarnicki, Steve Blusk, and Matt Rudolph. Rafael is launching his research program at Syracuse University to complement and extend this group’s amazing work. He has already submitted a couple of proposals to the National Science Foundation and is recruiting postdoctoral researchers and graduate student researchers to his group.

In addition to his fantastic research program, Rafael is the creator and scientific advisor of a series of short videos/documentaries that aim to explain the current set of flavour anomalies to the general public. All these videos are now part of a YouTube channel called Flavour at Zurich.

Upon arriving at Syracuse, Rafael immediately reached out to our colleagues in the Visual and Performing Arts college to initiate a new physics and art endeavor where art students and physics students work together to create multi-media projects to explain particle physics.

Rafael moved to Syracuse in late April 2022 and started as a research professor for a few months. During this time, he was living in Tomas Skwarnicki’ s house while he was house hunting. He has now found his own home, where he lives with his wife and huge dog. Although he lives in the same neighborhood as Syracuse University Basketball coach Jim Boeheim, Rafael has yet to challenge Coach Boeheim to a pick-up game.

Stay tuned for future highlights of Georgia, Alex, and Craig!