When Fred Gray was frantically applying to every professor job that came open more than a decade ago, he never could have imagined where he’d be today.
Gray, who is entering his 11th year in the physics department, likes his niche at Regis University.
“At this point I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better community.”
Gray has certainly seen the community grow up. When he started, he was the physics department. Now the department has three full-time faculty. Former students who are now physicians pop in.
“Oh, they are really doing some cool things,” he said.
Gray chatted about his latest work, what it means and what’s next.
Tell us about your research.
I'm working with a group that is replicating the experiment that I did as a graduate student.
Every summer I take two to three students out to Fermilab near Chicago. Subatomic particles constitute all matter in the universe. We’re trying to find out if there is something more out there. It’s a search for new physics. Essentially, we input muons into a big magnet and watch how their spins change over time. From there we can see if we discover anything new.
You’ve been working on this for a long time. Why keep doing it?
I’ve always been fascinated by the questions: “What is it all made of?” and “How did we get here?” Also, “Why is there stuff?” There is 5.5 times more dark matter in the universe than normal matter. There is more stuff that we don’t understand than we do understand. That’s why we need to keep looking.
Why not focus on something that has an easier answer or something that has tangible effects on people?
It’s a fair question. Ultimately, it’s a question of our humanity. Not everything has to be practical. When you’re telling stories of what the universe is made of, there are varying levels of realism. We all want to know what this cosmic soup is we are all swimming in. If the universe is this fancy watch, well then, what makes it tick? Historically, when we find out more about how the universe works, we always find a practical use for it, one that we wouldn’t have even dreamt about.