Dr. Smita Darmora uses particle physics to benefit humanity

Aug 3, 2022

by Smita Darmora, PhD

For #SummerOfScience, AWIS is highlighting members and partners to show the impact different fields of science have on society – and how these fields are impacted by women.

Introduce yourself and your work.

I am Smita Darmora, a particle physicist. Currently, I’m a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory with a Ph.D. in High Energy Physics (HEP). Over the past ten years, I have been involved with the ATLAS experiment in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, an international particle physics laboratory. As a US ATLAS member at CERN, I work with an international community to answer the biggest questions in particle physics is the study of fundamental particles and forces. As a researcher I investigate areas of physics beyond the standard model, such as exotic particles and dark matter/energy, to improve the fundamental understanding of the universe. My work involves analyzing large amounts of data from the ATLAS detector to extract new particle signals using machine learning and complex statistical tools. To search for new physics phenomena, I develop simulation techniques. 

What do you love about this field?

HEP research leads to significant outcomes in physics, as well as in the fields of information technology and big data. The CERN invented the world wide web (WWW) and pioneered big data and artificial intelligence that are now employed by industries worldwide. The fruits of our research benefit humanity in every corner of the planet Earth. I envision an environment that promotes diversity with innovative and accessible methods of learning.

How does your work benefit people and society in general?

As I worked and learned more, I could see and experience the potential benefits. Being at the CERN, when the Higgs Boson was being declared was one such moment that filled me with the excitement about infinite possibilities of science and their impact. The outcome of HEP research is not merely opening up the possibilities of the universe, but also the inclusiveness that it can bring to society that has enough resources to take care of everyone. The outcomes will not only be limited to analytical approach or scientific temperament, but also applying them to create solutions that provide food, health, and a good life to billions of people.

What barriers did you have to overcome to get where you are now?

My own journey has been one to explore beyond imagination coming from rural India to a friend country. The path was full of challenges due to the context I came from: lack of financial resources and a traditional family background where girls are not allowed to study much. However, this journey has taught me that given the right environment and opportunities, anyone can excel and achieve success in the area of choice. 

What is something you wish people knew about the field of particle physics?

My research in HEP contributes greatly to the modern innovation ecosystem as a global discovery science. It is critical to understand the most basic building blocks of the universe — origin of matter, energy and their interaction — explain nature at its essence. Understanding our nature inspires the next generation to go further and live in better ways, as our understanding of nature inspires them to expand their intellectual adventures. HEP research contributes significantly to the modern innovation system due to its global reach. It drives the progress of science and industry in the nation, resulting in a high quality of life for everyone. In the field of medicine, specifically the next generation of medical imaging, it plays an important role. As particle physicists, we continue to push the borders of big data analysis using global grids and cloud computing.