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MiniBooNE Detector, courtesy of Fermilab
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WIU Physicist Part of International MiniBooNE Experiment

April 12, 2007

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MACOMB, IL - - Scientists at the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Batavia, IL) announced on April 11 their first findings in the MiniBooNE experiment, designed to resolve long-standing questions about neutrinos, which are part of the building blocks of matter.

The announcement significantly clarifies the overall picture of how neutrinos behave, according to the news release at the U.S. Department of Energy Science News (

"This result will not mean much to the general reader; however, a better understanding about neutrinos allows us (scientists) to better understand certain aspects and details of our universe," said Eric Hawker, a Western Illinois University assistant physics professor.

Hawker has been a member of the MiniBooNE collaboration for the past nine years. He played an important part in building the massive neutrino detector that was used in the experiment, as well as other projects which included working on computer simulations of neutrino production and neutrino interactions. Photos of the construction of the MiniBooNE detector can be viewed at

"Over the last few decades or so scientists have been able to piece together the 'big picture' of our universe, an understanding of most of the major events and how and why they happened, that has led from the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago to us, living here on plant Earth," Hawker said. "This result announced (by Fermi April 11) can be seen as just a very small step forward toward better understanding the big picture of this story of how we came to exist."

Hawker and Western Illinois University are among an international collaboration of 77 physicists and 17 institutions in the U.S. and the United Kingdom working on the MiniBooNE experiment.

Hawker, who received his Ph.D. in physics from Texas A&M University in 1998, has done research on particle and nuclear physics for more than a decade at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in south suburban Chicago. He has held post-doctoral positions at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Cincinnati before coming to Western Illinois University in Fall 2004.

For more information on Hawker, visit the WIU physics department's website ( and click on "Faculty and Staff Directory."

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