The Physics Building hallways were quiet the afternoon of Dec. 19 ­– but not for graduate student Paul Rojas.

Holed up in a first-floor room with 12 flashing computer screens, Rojas spent most of that week keeping watch over an international, multi-hundred million dollar physics experiment that, once complete, could turn decades of physics on its head and solve profound mysteries of the universe’s origins.

Rojas and his adviser, physics Associate Professor Norman Buchanan, work on NOvA, an international physics collaboration that began in 2014, based at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). The goal of NOvA is to explore neutrinos ­– subatomic particles that are among the most abundant in the universe, but also some of the most difficult to make and observe. Understanding everything about neutrinos could tell us why the universe is made mostly of matter, when theory tells us it should be composed of equal parts of something else called antimatter.

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