Patricia Rankin

LEAP, Particle Physics Research

Contact Information

Professor Rankin is PI of the LEAP project and a Faculty Director in the Provost's office. She can be emailed at, and contacted by calling (303 49)2-1520.

Curently she is not holding office hours.


My current focus is on a program to increase the number of women in leadership positions in the sciences and engineering. This project is supported for five years by the NSF - more details can be found at the LEAP web site. LEAP is focused on working with all faculty members - irrespective of their gender or discipline to improve their professional skill set. Workshops funded through LEAP have sessions on topics such as time management colaborative leadership and conflict management. research studies cover topics such as networking, salary equity and demographic intertia studies.

Particle Physics Research

One of the biggest questions in physics is why nature is not perfectly symmetric. The experiment on which I am working - BTeV - is designed to address this question. BTeV is an experiment that is being planned at the Fermilab Accelerator (B-TeV web site).

Experiments in particle physics typically fall into two categories. Search experiments operate at the highest possible machine energies and look for evidence of new phenomena and/or new particles - both predicted and unpredicted by theory. Precision experiments operate at lower machine energies but very high beam intensities. They test theories at the limit of their predictive ability by examining rare processes, and by looking for deviations from expectations based on the standard theory. BTeV is both a precision experiment and a search experiment.

There is a deep connection between what are known as conservation laws and the symmetries of nature. A conserved quantity in physics is any quantity whose value does not change with time. A symmetry is the term used to describe any process which can be applied to a system and which leaves it unchanged. If I move an experiment from one end of a lab table to another, I do not change the experiment or its results. Spatial translations of this type are a symmetry of nature because a physical quantity, in this case momentum, is conserved. In 1962, physicists learnt that the conservation of one quantity was not as perfect as had been previously thought. The charge conjugation-parity (CP) of an object is not exactly conserved by processes involving the weak force. The weak force is one of the fundamental forces in physics and is responsible for radioactive decay. Physicists can detect if experiments involving weak decays have been reflected in a mirror (the parity symmetry) and if the particles used in these experiments have been replaced by anti-particles (the charge-conjugation symmetry). We live in a universe which is made of matter (matter-dominated). However, the Big Bang produced equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. CP violation (non-conservation) is the first clue we have as to how the anti-matter in the universe might have disappeared because it shows us that matter and anti-matter can behave differently on the microscopic level.

Patricia Rankin Last modified Sunday January 9th 2005