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New Faculty Focus: Kevin Black

The new physics professor specializes in elementary particle physics.

by Katie Vaughn September 14, 2018
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Kevin Black

Title: Professor of Physics

Hometown: Sacramento, California

Educational background: 

Wesleyan University, BA with honors, 1995

Boston University, MA, 2000

Boston University, PhD, 2005

Professional background: 

Post-doctoral Research Scholar, Harvard University, 2005-2008

Research Scientist, Harvard University, 2008-2010

Assistant Professor, Boston University, 2010-2016

Associate Professor, Boston University, 2016-2018

How did you get into your field of research?

I study elementary particle physics trying to understand the universe in terms of its most basic building blocks and interactions. I have always been fascinated that there are ways in which the human mind can understand the physical universe. The more I learned, the more I realized the extent of our ignorance and the more compelling and fascinating the questions about the basic constituents of matter and how they interact. The fact that all the known particles are now known to constitute only five percent of the visible universe means that despite tremendous progress there is still a huge amount to understand and uncover.

What attracted you to UW-Madison?

The physics department is renowned, and in particular the group that I am joining is one of the strongest in the country in what we do.   

What was your first visit to campus like? 

Remarkably charming! I had never been to Madison or Wisconsin before. I knew the group, department and school were excellent but had no idea what a great town Madison was.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?

In the end, I think a basic love of figuring things out and fundamental understanding of how science works are the most important things to impart.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.

I feel it relates in two ways: 

The first is that fundamental science is the bedrock for applied research. Although some of the things I study may seem abstract and esoteric, the particles that exist in the universe and how they interact are fundamental to understanding the rest of science.

I have been involved in outreach to underserved communities and trying to help foster basic science education among children, high school students and teachers.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?

Although there are a lot of famous quotes about the Large Hadron Collider bringing the end of days, scientifically these just don’t have any merit! 

Hobbies/other interests:

Film, reading, new wave music.