Physics Alum Hunting for Neutrinos

Julie He

Julie He (B.S., physics, ’16) wanted to help people — maybe by being a doctor — but discovered instead how to make a difference through physics. She is now building a science career that will fulfill her goal of ensuring a healthy world.

As a junior specialist in the UC Davis Neutrino Group, He is contributing to a new way to detect illicit nuclear activities, the WATCHMAN (WATer CHerenkov Monitor for Anti-Neutrinos) detector. This fall, He began a doctoral degree in physics with Professor Bob Svoboda, working on WATCHMAN and other neutrino experiments.

Experiment aims for nuclear weapon detection

Antineutrinos are particles created in fission reactions, such as those used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. If successful, the detector could make it nearly impossible for countries to hide clandestine nuclear weapons programs.

He also hopes to make a positive impact closer to home. Her plans include outreach to communities like the Nob Hill neighborhood in San Francisco where she was born and raised. A first-generation college graduate, He wants to encourage more young women to follow her path.

“I want to inspire more young women of color and show them you can do what I do,” she said. “My goal is to make science more accessible and inspire the next generation to be passionate about learning.”

Becky Oskin, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science