Graduate Fellows

Fall 2023 Fellows

Alexander Antonakis is a Ph.D. student in Physics at UC Santa Barbara. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Michigan. Now, he is continuing his research in experimental neutrino physics under Dr. Caratelli at UCSB. His current work consists of a few different projects for the new SBND detector at Fermilab. Under the HEPCAT fellowship, Alexander will aid in building a GArTPC detector with GEM-based readout electronics to explore our abilities to resolve O(10-100) um tracks originating from O(10 -100s) keV sources. In addition, he will be investigating charge amplification in LAr through the LArCADe project in collaboration with colleagues at Fermilab to increase the scope of single-phase LArTPC detectors to be sensitive to nuclear recoil ionization signatures. The goal of these efforts is in developing novel detection methods for probing weak signatures originating from sources such as CEvNS. Outside of research, Alexander enjoys playing soccer and longboarding in his free time.
Ryan Gibbons (UC Berkeley) is a physics graduate student in the dark matter group at LBNL. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of New Mexico. Ryan’s current research focuses on analysis and simulations with the LZ dark matter experiment and R&D for the next generation of xenon dark matter detectors. He works in Dr. Peter Sorensen’s lab, primarily on crystaLiZe: a crystalline/vapor xenon TPC. With the HEPCAT fellowship, under the mentorship of Dr. Aaron Manalaysay, Ryan is pursuing novel particle discrimination techniques in dual-phase xenon TPCs. Outside of the lab, Ryan enjoys cycling and reading.
Zachary McGuire (UC Berkeley) is a third year Ph.D. student in nuclear engineering. He earned his M.Eng. in the same field from UC Berkeley in 2021 and his B.S. in Applied Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2018. Zachary works with the Bay Area Neutron Group under Dr. Bethany Goldblum characterizing scintillators. With HEPCAT, he will be investigating the electron light yield in a variety of scintillating media. In his spare time, Zachary plays tenor drums with the University of California Marching Band – Go Bears!
Rory Vincent O’Dwyer (Stanford) is a fourth-year graduate student who earned a B.A. in physics and M.S. in math from Texas A&M in 2020. He helped to commission the ME1/1 Endcap detectors for the CMS and to build the TexAT active gaseous target detector for the TAMU Cyclotron institute. He now looks for medium mass dark matter candidates with Dr. Lauren Tompkins at the LDMX and HPS Experiments; the HEPCAT fellowship will allow him to test LDMX TS (Trigger Scintillator) trigger firmware at SLAC’s S30LX facility. In his undergrad, he was a collegiate wrestler, and he enjoys hiking.
Alec Peck has previously worked with the ALICE collaboration at CERN, looking for exotic forms of matter, and now works as part of the DarkSide Collaboration at UC Riverside.  With HEPCAT, Alec is assisting in the design of xenon-doped liquid argon detectors for dark matter searches and neutrino physics, including CEvNS from terrestrial reactors. His lab will test cryogenics, optics and VUV SiPM detector capabilities for a new generation of low-energy detectors.  In his free time, he sings from the heart and plays trombone from the diaphragm.
Brandon Sandoval (Caltech) is a graduate student in Physics at Caltech, having completed a B.S. in Physics at Stanford University in 2021. He is currently working in Professor Sunil Golwala’s group on the development of Kinetic Inductance Detector-based Phonon-Mediated (KIPM) detectors for direct dark matter detection, as well as assisting in the commissioning of the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment. Under the HEPCAT fellowship, Brandon will further improve the energy resolution of KIPM detectors by quantifying the magnitude of phonon losses to non-resonator components, as well as integrating a lower-noise kinetic inductance-based parametric amplifier (KIPA). In his free time, Brandon is an avid guitar player and composer.

Spring 2023 Fellows

Earl Russell Almazan (UC Santa Cruz) is currently a  graduate student who earned his B.A. in physics from UC Berkeley in 2021. He interned at LBNL under the ATLAS collaboration during his undergraduate education, working on detector performance checks and systematic uncertainty quantification in exotic Higgs decay data analysis. Under the HEPCAT fellowship, Earl works at SCIPP to characterize thin-film semiconductor detectors for particle physics applications.
Riley Gleason (UC Irvine) graduated with a B.S. in physics from UCR in 2021. He is a graduate student working in Professor Taffard’s group. As part of his research on the ATLAS experiment, he will be working on the development of a new muon trigger processor board (MDTTP) for High-Luminosity LHC. The MDTTP permits the use of Monitoring Drift Tube signals to reconstruct muons at the first level trigger with increased accuracy. Riley will work on evaluating and improving the performance of the algorithms implemented on FPGA and on the monitoring of the MDTTP board as a whole. The HEPCAT fellowship will give him the opportunity to acquire a new set of technical skills, which will be put into use for the MDTTP project.
Noah Hood (UC San Diego) is a graduate student who earned his bachelor’s in Physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2020. Noah works in the RareLabs group at UCSD, where he began working on XENONnT analysis. His project for HEPCAT will focus on the development and testing of Silicon Photomultipliers for neutrino and dark matter detectors using Nobel liquids. Outside of physics, Noah enjoys singing and attempting to play musical instruments.
James (Jimmy) Kingston (UC Davis) is currently a physics graduate student. He received his B.A. in physics and applied mathematics from UC Berkeley in 2017 and an M.S. in physics from the University of Chicago in 2019. Jimmy is conducting his thesis research at LLNL, where he is investigating stability challenges and sensitivity benefits from xenon-doping of argon with the CHILLAX detector. He will also analyze data from the LZ experiment, which searches for dark matter interactions with liquid xenon. He enjoys powerlifting, speedcubing, and being vegan.
Rene Padilla is a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Institute in Particle Physics, working in the area of Advanced Accelerator Diagnostics. Rene received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Stanislaus State University in Turlock, California. Since coming to UC Santa Cruz, he has been interested in damage caused to solid state sensors by intense hadronic radiation, and has authored publications on radiation hardness of both silicon diode and bulk diamond sensors. Rene is also interested in the question of how high a repetition rate can be achieved with ionizing particle sensors, and is currently working on a scheme geared towards measuring signals with multi-GHz frame rates. Rene is also an active alumnus of the Cal-Bridge program, regularly bringing his success story to under-represented college students around the state.
Sean Preins (UC Riverside) is currently a graduate student, who received his B.S. in Engineering Physics from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He interned at Fermilab working in the Muon g-2 experiment and at Brookhaven working in the ion Rapidly Cycling Medical Synchrotron project. He currently works in Dr. Arratia’s group on calorimetry R&D for the future Electron-Ion Collider. Sean is developing a concept of high-granularity calorimeter based on silicon photomultipliers and scintillator tiles, which he plans to test in various test beams in the near future. He also enjoys utilizing 3D printing techniques for both detector design and for his hobby of building with LEGO
Zoë Smith (Stanford University) is a graduate student in Applied Physics at Stanford University. She earned her B.A. in physics and B.S. in mathematics at the University of Chicago in 2021. At Stanford, she is working in the Kurinsky group to develop qubit-based sensors for low mass dark matter candidates. She hopes to achieve meV-scale sensitivity through fabrication of charge sensitive qubits. Outside of physics, she enjoys running, painting, and cross country skiing. 
Deangelo Wooley (UC Davis) is currently a graduate student at UC Davis getting a degree in particle physics. He graduated from UC Davis as an undergraduate in 2020, with a bachelor’s degree in physics with an emphasis in astrophysics. Deangelo currently works with Robert Svoboda, analyzing the components of WbLS, and testing the material compatibility. In his free time he likes to travel to different countries. Deangelo is a member of the mvskoke creek nation.  

2022 Fellows

Anthony Vizcaíno Aportela (UC San Diego) graduated with a B.S. in physics with highest honors from Georgia Tech. He is a graduate student, currently part of the Duarte Lab. In collaboration with CMS physicists, he is working on hardware-accelerated machine learning for the detector triggers, as well as geometric deep learning for exotic particle searches. In his free time he likes to bind books and indulge in woodworking.


Jason Corbin (Stanford University) graduated in 2021 with a B.S. in physics from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He is now a graduate student at Stanford University’s Kavli Institute, working in the Irwin lab. He has built an ultra-high vacuum system of 15 kV electrodes for use in the MAGIS-100 experiment. His future work will be in the area of developing a superconducting SQUID array.


Gael Flores Avila (UCLA) is a graduate student pursuing research in electronics instrumentation for Trigger and Data Acquisition systems for collider experiments. As part of the HEPCAT fellowship, Gael will design, build, and test a next-generation digital processor featuring an input bandwidth of 15 Tb/s and the largest FPGA ever made. Gael will be trained in board schematics, layout, and FPGA firmware and participate in the CMS group’s activities on the upgrade of the Muon Trigger for High Luminosity LHC.


Joseph Levine (UC Davis) is a graduate student in Tony Tyson’s group. He is working on the dark photon search experiment and is helping build a summer school module for the HEPCAT quantum devices topical group.  He in interested in instrumentation and has experience in electronics, data acquisition, and COMSOL EM simulation software. Joseph is also active in mentoring K-12 students in STEM.


Adam Molnar (UC Santa Cruz) is a graduate student, who received his bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics at UC Berkeley in 2020. In the following year, he split his time between LBNL and Fermilab. At Fermilab he worked on LGAD characterization using hadronic test beams, while at LBNL he developed a digital characterization platform for pixel sensor data transmission. Adam is currently working on establishing a testbed for ATLAS ITk strip thermo-cycling studies. Adam has a strong interest in instrumentation, particularly related to solid-state sensors and their application as detector elements in next-generation experiments.


Blanca Nino (UC Davis) is a graduate student in the department of physics and astronomy and hails from Fresno, CA.  She received her BS at SUNY Buffalo.  Blanca is interested in silicon tracking detector development for high energy physics collider experiments and will use her HEPCAT award to study the thermal, mechanical, and radiation-tolerant characteristics for future silicon trackers.  Blanca participated with STEM Squad of UC Davis, designing and facilitating a hands-on circuits activity geared toward middle school students.
Jianyang Qi (UC San Diego) graduated from UCSD with a B.S. in physics and continued his graduate school there in Fall 2020. He is interested in neutrino detection using noble liquid detectors. He is currently involved in the XENONnT experiment, with a focus on the investigation of single electron signals and background relevant to solar neutrino detection. He is also involved in R&D and hardware development towards reactor neutrino detection using noble liquids. In his free time, he likes to freedive and do silk embroidery.


Jacob Sebastian (UC Berkeley) is a graduate student in the nuclear engineering department. He graduated in 2019 from North Carolina State with BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering, Applied Mathematics, and Political Science with a minor in Middle East Studies. He has held positions as an international nuclear safeguards intern at LLNL, a research assistant at the Center for Global Security Research at LLNL, and a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Sebastian’s research project will focus on instrumentation by measuring pulse shapes in high-resolution scintillators for HEP and broader detection communities.


Dylan Smith (UC Irvine) is a physics graduate student. He was born and raised in Dearborn, MI, and attended Michigan State University for his B.S. in physics. His current research project uses machine learning to develop generalized calorimeter simulations to help study the performance of future detectors. Outside of research, he enjoys reading (mostly philosophy of science or philosophy in general) and playing video games (his favorite is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild).