Emily Qiu (1T8) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

With support from both the Division of Engineering Science as well as from my supervisor, I was incredibly fortunate to spend my summer at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University, working on R&D for the LZ dark matter experiment.

LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) is one of three Generation-2 dark matter detection experiments, to begin operating in 2020. Our group at SLAC is one of the largest teams for R&D, playing a major role in designing, prototyping, and fabricating the final production system. LZ aims to directly detect weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), currently one of the most popular candidates for cosmological dark matter. It will utilize 7 tons of liquid xenon in a time projection chamber (TPC) to search for nuclear recoil signals in response to scattering of incoming dark matter particles.


Emily Qiu with the liquid nitrogen tank of the LZ R&D group at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

As part of the LUX upgrade, the krypton removal team is working to purify commercial grade xenon through adsorption-based charcoal chromatography. I was responsible for a variety of tasks which contributed to the krypton removal system, including:

  •  Writing code to control and mitigate backflow during xenon injection into the charcoal column
  • Automating a number of calibration and sampling procedures, then sampling twenty 100kg bottles of xenon to be used in the LZ TPC
  • Performing a set of condenser studies to determine maximum flow rates achievable during recovery

When I wasn’t filling liquid nitrogen dewar flasks at work, I went on road trips during the weekends, visiting some of the most beautiful parks and mountain ranges I’d ever seen. Since I was living in one of the largest tech hubs in the world, I was also fortunate enough to meet so many interesting people working on state-of-the-art technology, and ended up making a ton of new friends.

Throughout my summer, not only did I learn more than I could have ever imagined, I was also able to apply my skills and see the direct impact of my work in LZ. I made unforgettable memories working alongside my team of dedicated scientists, all of whom were incredibly passionate about their research. My thanks to both the Division of Engineering Science and the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology for their support in making this opportunity possible, as I could not have asked for a richer learning experience.