Richard J. Gaitskell Hazard Professor of Physics

Prof. Gaitskell is the head of the Particle Astrophysics Group which is part of the Cosmology and Astrophysics Program at Brown. The Particle Astrophysics Group is currently a leading institution on the LUX (Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment) which was constructed 2010-2012, and is now searching (2013-2015) for the direct interaction of Particle Dark Matter using the Sanford underground lab in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

    Prof Gaitskell is a PI and Co-spokesperson of LUX. He was also the first spokesperson for LUX-ZEPLIN Collaboration, and experiment which is planned to follow LUX in 2017+.

    He joined the Brown faculty in 2001. During the period 2001-2007 the Brown Particle Astrophysics Group were a lead collaborator in the CDMS II (Cryogenic Dark Matter Search) and XENON10 Experiments.

    Prior to coming to Brown, Prof. Gaitskell held positions as a Faculty Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London, UK; he was a Fellow at the Center for Particle Astrophysics in UC Berkeley, CA; a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, CA; and a Prize Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Dept. of Physics, Oxford University, UK. His thesis (in dark matter detection) and undergraduate BSc/MA degree are from Oxford University, UK.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

D. Akerib et al,LUX Collaboration: First results from the LUX dark matter experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 091303 / arXiv:1310.8214

D. C. Malling, S. Fiorucci, M. Pangilinan, J. J. Chapman, C. H. Faham, J. R. Verbus, R. J. Gaitskell, “Dark Matter Search Backgrounds from Primordial Radionuclide Chain Disequilibrium” , accepted by Astroparticle Physics, arXiv: 1305.5183

D. Akerib et al, (LUX Collaboration). “Technical Results from the Surface Run of the LUX Dark Matter Experiment” Astroparticle Physics (2013) 10.1016/j.astropartphys.2013.02.001, arXiv: 1210.4569

D. Akerib et al, (LUX Collaboration). “The LUX Dark Matter Experiment” Nucl. Instr. Meth. A 704 111 (2013) ; arXiv: 1211.3788

D. Akerib, et al, (LUX Collaboration). “The LUX prototype detector: heat exchanger development” arXiv:1207.3665, Nucl. Instr. Meth. A, January 24 (2013)

D. Akerib, et al, (LUX Collaboration/K. Kazkaz). “LUXSim: A Component-Centric Approach to Low-Background Simulations.” arXiv:1111.2074, Nucl. Instr. Meth. A 675 63 (2012)

J. Angle et al., (XENON10 Collaboration), “A search for light dark matter in XENON10 data”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 107:051301 (2011) arxiv:1104.3088.

D. Akerib et al, (LUX Collaboration/D. Malling). “An Ultra-Low Background PMT for Liquid Xenon Detectors”, arxiv:1205.2272, NIM A 703 1 (2012)

D. Akerib, et al, (LUX Collaboration/J. Chapman). “Data Acquisition and Readout System for the LUX Dark Matter Experiment.” NIM A668:1-8 (2012)

D.S. Akerib et al. (CDMS Collaboration), "Limits on spin-independent WIMP-nucleon interactions from the two-tower run of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search", Phys. Rev. Lett. 96 (2006) 011302, astro-ph/0509259.

D.S. Akerib et al. (CDMS Collaboration), "Limits on spin-dependent WIMP-nucleon interactions from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search", Phys. Rev. D73 (2006) 011102, astro-ph/0509269.

D. S. Akerib, et al. (CDMS Collaboration), "Exclusion Limits on the WIMP-Nucleon Cross-Section from the First Run of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search in the Soudan Underground Lab", Phys. Rev. D72 (2005) 052009, astro-ph/0507190.

M. Attisha, L. De Viveiros, R. Gaitskell, J-P. Thompson, "Soudan Low Background Counting Facility (SOLO)", AIP Conf. Proc. 785, p75 (2005).

E. Aprile ,C. E. Dahl, L. DeViveiros, R. Gaitskell, K. L. Giboni, J. Kwong, P. Ma jewski, K. Ni, T. Shutt and M. Yamashita, "Simultaneous Measurement of Ionization and Scintillation from Nuclear Recoils in Liquid Xenon as Target for a Dark Matter Experiment", Phys. Rev. Lett., submitted Dec 2005. (astro-ph/0601552).

E. Aprile et al., "The XENON Dark Matter Search Experiment", Proc. of the 6th UCLA Symposium on Sources and Detection of Dark Matter, Santa Monica Feb 2004, astro-ph/0407575.

R.J.Gaitskell, "Direct Detection of Dark Matter'', Annu. Rev. Nucl. and Part. Sci. 54 (2004) 315-359.

G. Eigen, R.J. Gaitskell, G.D. Kribs and K.T. Matchev, Indirect Investigations of Supersymmetry, Report of the "Indirect Investigations of SUSY" subgroup of the P3 Physics Group at Snowmass 2001 (hep-ph/0112312)

R J Gaitskell, Toward One Tonne Direct WIMP Detectors: Have We Got What It Takes? , 3rd International Workshop on Identification of Dark Matter (World Scientific, submitted, to be published September 2001). (Preprint available at

D. Tovey, R. Gaitskell, P. Gondolo, Y. Ramachers, and L. Roszkowski, A New Method for Presenting Model-Independent Spin-Dependent Cross-Section Limits from Dark Matter Searches, Phys. Lett. B 488 (2000) 17

research overview

Professor Gaitskell leads a research team hunting for direct evidence of particle dark matter, one of physics' greatest unclaimed prizes. His group is working on an experiment that has a detector located in the underground laboratories in the Sanford Lab, South Dakota, (LUX Experiment). The LUX experiment which started running in 2013 is the world's most sensitive dark matter detector.

research statement

For further details of our research please see

A wealth of observations, dating back 70 years [1], show that the universe is composed of >96% invisible matter and energy [see 2, and refs. therein]. The nature of these missing components is one of the most fundamental questions in physics, and has attracted broad attention from the public. The leading candidate for the invisible "dark matter" is subatomic particles left over from the big bang known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). Such particles are also predicted by supersymmetry, a favored class of new particle models [3]. If WIMPs exist, they are also the dominant mass in our own Milky Way, and, though they only very rarely interact with conventional matter, should nonetheless be detectable by sufficiently sensitive detectors on Earth. The primary challenge in detecting them is reducing natural radioactivity. If no effort is made to reduce this background radioactivity, it would mask the dark matter signal by some 10 or more, orders of magnitude. The primary techniques for reducing this radioactive background are placing detectors in a suitable deep underground location, of which there are only a handful worldwide, and using a sophisticated shield against ambient radioactivity from the rock and cavern infrastructure.

Gaitskell's group is actively involved in the development and operation of detectors that are capable of detecting dark matter particle interactions. The current main focus is on a detector based around liquid xenon (LXe). When a particle interaction occurs in LXe both scintillation light and ionization (electron-ion) signals are created. These signals can be detected using arrays of photomultipliers (PMTs). The LUX experiment, which recently began operations at the Sanford Underground Laboratory, South Dakota, has a 1/3 tonne LXe target observed by some 120 PMTs.

The research group continues to work on alternative photodetection techniques to replace PMTs, in order to provide better quantum efficiency for the light detection, and lower intrinsic radioactivity.

Gaitskell has had extensive experience of dark matter deployment and operation at underground labs being a PI on the CDMS II (Soudan, MN), which he is now winding down his involvement on, the XENON1- (Gran Sasso, Italy) experiments, which is over, and the LUX Experiment. He has also constructed and operated a low background gamma screening facility (SOLO) at the Soudan Mine.


[1] F. Zwicky, Helv. Phys. Acta, 6 (1933), 110.

[2] R. J. Gaitskell, Ann. Rev. Nucl. Part. Sci. 54 (2004) 315.

[3] W. Freedman and M Turner, Rev. Mod. Phys. 75 (2003) 1433.; C. Munoz, Int. J. Mod. Phys. A19 (2004) 3093.; J. Feng, hep-ph/0405215 (2004).

[4] LUX Collaboration, 2013. (Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 091303 – Published 4 March 2014, arXiv:1310.8214) First results from the LUX dark matter experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

funded research

(details on application)