Department of Physics and Astronomy

Degrees and



Department of
Physics &

Research Group

 Contact Information

    Paul D. Sheldon
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Office:(615) 343-0484
Fax:(615) 343-7217


My primary research interest is in elementary particle physics (To find out more, take the "Particle Adventure" tour.)

Particle physics seeks to understand the fundamental mysteries of the universe. Never has this been more relevant or important than it is today. Many fundamental properties of the universe confound us, and while there is no shortage of proposed explanations we need data and/or observations to give us insight and feedback into which explanations best reflect reality. For example, we know that 90% of the mass of the universe is in dark matter: matter that appears to be non-baryonic (i.e. not made up of atoms). We do not know what dark matter is, we need experimental clues. We have a theory for the origin of mass, the Higgs mechanism, and have recently discovered a candidate Higgs particle. We need to determines its properties and compare them to the detailed predictions of the theory. The big bang should have created equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, but the anti-matter appears to have disappeared. This asymmetry tells us two things: there must be large sources of CP violation and there must be baryon number violating processes. The latter has not been observed and observations of the former are far too small. An unknown force, often called ``dark energy,'' is forcing the universe apart, but experiment and observation currently offer us no explanation of what this mysterious force is.

These are exciting times: many discoveries await.

The best place to make such discoveries in the next decade is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. For example, LHC experiments are currently uniquely capable of measuring the propoerties of the Higgs and searching for super-symmetry. A leading candidate for dark matter is the lowest mass super-symmetric particle. Many theories predict this to be a neutral particle, and if so, it would have the characteristics needed by dark matter models. LHC experiments are also be uniquely poised to search for new sources of CP violation. Finally, the LHC offers unique opportunities to search for leptoquarks (a possible explanation for baryogenesis) and exotic predictions of theories beyond the Standard Model, such as large extra dimensions.

As a member of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration at the LHC, I intend to exploit the rich particle physics program at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the next 10 years.

Experiments in this field take a decade or more to design, build, and carry out. They require the construction of large detectors and the collaboration of hundreds of scientists. I work closely with two other Vanderbilt faculty (Professors Johns and Webster); the activities of our research group are funded by the National Science Foundation.

Motivated by the huge demands for high performance computing and networking in particle physics, I have become involved in the development of of resources and tools to support large, long-distance scientific data flows and grid computation. I am director and co-founder (in 2004) of the Vanderbilt University Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education (ACCRE), a campus-wide research computing facility enabling new and exciting opportunities at the cutting-edge of academic inquiry. Since its inception, 600 researchers from over 30 departments and five schools have used ACCRE resources. I also am or have been the principle investigator or co-principal investigator on several NSF funded networking and computation projects.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants PHY-1206044, PHY-1506406, OCI-1245918 and OCI-1246133.

Page design by Mathew Binkley