Burying vital physics study can only shed light

“We are hoping to be able to either conclusively refute or potentially support DAMA’s claim.”

The DAMA experiment has detected a modulating signal that peaks in June and falls to its lowest level in December.

“The big issue is that DAMA has been seeing this signal for almost 30 years now but nobody else has because they have different detection technologies,” she said.

‘I would love for us to understand what dark matter is.’

“We are not totally sure how dark matter interacts with regular matter, so one of the big questions is maybe it interacts with different things in different ways.”

The Melbourne University experiment will use sodium iodide crystals, the same material used in the DAMA experiment. Other experiments have used noble gases as a target for dark matter.

“There is a potential that dark matter interacts with those two materials in different ways,” she said.

“We are going back to first principles in saying let’s do exactly what DAMA has done … and then if we don’t see anything going on, there is something weird going on at DAMA that is not dark matter.”

Dark matter lab under construction a kilometre underground at a former mineshaft in Stawell gold mine. Credit:Joe Armao

If the experiment achieves a similar result to the DAMA experiment, further questions would be raised about why dark matter interacts only with a particular crystal.

The lab would also provide further opportunities to observe other rare physics processes.

After she completes her PhD at the end of next year, Ms Zurowski said she hopes she can transfer the analytical skills she has developed to continue working in physics research.

She would like to take part in similar dark matter experiments in other countries in Europe and Canada.

“I would love for us to understand what dark matter is,” she said. “The fact that it makes up a quarter of the known universe … I would love for us to know what it is.

“We need to understand the world around us so we can work out how it can be used to benefit us.”

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