"Probing the Light and Dark Universe with X-ray Instrumentation"
Instruments that exploit X-ray measurements offer a unique view onto both the dark matter and high-energy astrophysical content of the universe. In the first part of this talk, I will discuss the large-area, low-cost silicon X-ray detectors that have been developed for the GAPS experiment, which will search for cosmic antinuclei signatures of dark matter using the novel technique of exotic atom capture and decay. In the second part of this talk, I will describe my work using the NuSTAR satellite X-ray observatory to uncover the dominant stellar remnant populations of the Galactic center and bulge, which are key backgrounds to astrophysical dark matter searches, as well as to provide leading constraints on decaying dark matter. Finally, I will briefly discuss how X-ray optics similar to those used by NuSTAR will be deployed in the International Axion Observatory (IAXO) in the coming decade, expanding sensitivity to axion dark matter.
Professor Perez is interested in using cosmic particles to look for beyond the Standard Model physics, in particular evidence of dark matter interactions. She leads the silicon detector program for the GAPS experiment, a balloon-borne instrument that aims to detect antideuteron and antiproton evidence of dark matter annihilation in the Galactic halo. As the first optimized experiment to search for low-energy antideuterons, which have been discussed for over a decade as a particularly low-background signature of dark matter, GAPS is poised to make a major contribution to the field. In addition, she is head of the analysis of high-energy X-ray emission in the inner parsecs of the Galaxy using the NuSTAR telescope array, and is involved in searches for X-ray signatures of exotic particle physics processes. She has also begun work on the prototype X-ray optics for the International Axion Observatory (IAXO), the upgrade to the CAST solar axion helioscope experiment.
In addition to mentoring students in research, Professor Perez has a passion for science education and outreach, placing particular emphasis on connecting with students who, because of cultural factors or lack of exposure, have not considered the career paths that a science education opens.
More details on Kerstin's research can be found here.