dave z. besson

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Physics and Astronomy
Primary office:
Malott Hall
Room 5069
University of Kansas
1251 Wescoe Hall Drive
Lawrence, KS 66045



I have taught at the 100-level for the last 20 years or so. Over that period, I have tried to maintain a schedule of

PHSX114 (300-person enrollment first-semester course for pre-health professions students) in one semester, followed by

PHSX115 (second course in the sequence) the next semester. As a 100-level class, this is obviously

among the easiest teaching assignments in the Department, and I am

thankful to the Department Chair and scheduling officer for continuing to indulge my requests. If possible, I

plan on continuing this pattern for the foreseeable future.

In those courses, I've developed an independent, self-formulating homework system which

I've used for the last two years, which, at least judging by student surveys, is preferred compared to traditional online systems.

As is evident from my evaluations, there are

obviously many areas that could benefit from considerable improvement.

In addition, up until fall 2017, I have also taught, as an overload, an Honors Freshman Tutorial for the last decade,

with a social issues focus.

In advising, I am currently the

sole faculty member in particle astrophysics, leading a research group of six graduate students (with one more confirmed, and one more likely in the fall) and a comparable number of


I generally try to provide as wide a variety of research experiences to my students, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Our group has had good placement -- the most recent Ph.D. is about to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at DESY, Germany. Other members of our

group, within the last few years,

have won the National Price Competition for achievement in particle astrophysics (Jessica Stockham, 2015), been NSF Fellows (Jessica Stockham),

and won competitive Dept. of Energy Graduate Fellowships (Steven Prohira, spring 2018, allowing him to perform an experiment, in-residence at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center this semester).

Prohira has also just been named the 2018

CCAPP Post-doctoral Fellow, beginning in 2018, for a term of 3--5 years, at Ohio State University, for which he is allowed an independent research program, and a budget of ~10K.


Our group initiated the field of experimental radiowave detection of cosmogenic neutrinos with the RICE experiment in 1995; after a total of 30 trips to Antarctica by KU personnel, it has since grown to a multi-experiment endeavor

involving at least 25 international institutions. (I was, in 2017, invited to write a review article on the field, and also asked to give the plenary talk at the 2017 International Cosmic Ray Conference.)

We participate on three of the current experiments, and have provided crucial hardware to all three of these, with

a recent specialization in low-cost, high-voltage radio-frequency transmitters.

For the future, we hope to maintain our strategic position in the field of particle astrophysics

and continue to develop novel experimental hardware and detection strategies. As the primary locale for our

experimental work is Antarctica, we have historically worked on improving our understanding of the

radio-frequency properties of cold Antarctic ice.

For the next few years, our work will likely unfold, as follows:

1. Develop hardware for the next-iteration of the NASA-sponsored HiCal experiment (``HiCal-3'', based at the University of Kansas). The previous iterations (HiCal-1; 2014-15 and HiCal-2; 2016-17) were based on the piezo-electric signal generation scheme, which generated large signal amplitudes, but were not gps-triggerable. For HiCal-3 (2019-21), we anticipate using an Arduino-based voltage avalanche scheme into a higher-bandwidth antenna, to allow an enhanced physics program. Data from the HiCal-1 project forms the basis of graduate student Jessica Stockham's thesis. Incoming student Alisa Nozdrina will, as a follow-up to the main HiCal science goals, measure the radio-frequency reflectivity of Antarctica using parasitic signals from satellites.

2. With the ARA experiment, and with a similar mark of transmitter antenna, perform a follow-up to the South Pole Ice Core Experiment measurements performed in January, 2018, using a KU-developed pulser. Here, the goal is to calibrate the entire Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) using ~10-nanosecond duration pulses, propagating through 2--4 km of South Polar ice. Graduate student Latif is currently using ARA data as the focus of his Ph.D. thesis. Incoming graduate student Andrew Shultz will also have an ARA-focused Ph.D. thesis.

\item With the ANITA experiment, continue our work on understanding the dielectric properties of ice in the 100 MHz--1000 MHz frequency regime. This effort is the subject of graduate student Mark Stockham's thesis, and has resulted in four publications within the last three years. Graduate student Emma Ralston is taking over this effort from Mark.

3. With the ARIANNA experiment, develop a follow-up to the transmitter currently deployed on Mt. Discovery, Moore's Bay, Antarctica, for which, our solar panel power provision failed for unknown reasons, so that power was restricted to battery only.

4. Continue to develop the possibility of cosmic-ray detection using radar reflections from showers in dense media. A beam test, to demonstrate feasibility of this approach, is the focus of Prohira's Stanford Fellowship this semester. Four undergraduates are also working, in concert, on this problem.

5. Enlarge our footprint on the Belle- and Belle-II projects, for which three analyses (search for U(4S)->eta'U(1S), investigation of /\c/\c correlations, and search for U(1S)->open charm were initiated over the last several years, but, owing to personpower limitations, remain unfinished).


I have, within the last two years, in addition to two domestic proposals, also reviewed large (300-4000 kEuro) proposals to the National funding agencies in Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. I have been asked to serve on the promotion committee for one outside Department (Texas Tech) and also been the outside reviewer for two international Ph.D. candidate (University of Groningen, Netherlands). I have reviewed four particle astrophysics journal papers and three in experimental particle physics.

Departmental Service Work:

I have, over the last few years, served as advisor to the KU Society of Physics Students (SPS). In 2016, with three SPS

student members, we submitted a \$2000 proposal to the National SPS organization to develop a novel cosmic-ray detector

based on the high nuclear interaction cross-section of Boron. Our proposal was, in fact, one of three selected that

year, and provided the funds necessary to develop an initial version of the cosmic-ray detector hardware. Undergraduate

Brendon Madison has spear-headed this effort; in addition to a full-scale hardware prototype, Brendon has also written

all necessary readout firmware and software, and is in the process of assembling a complete, GEANT-based simulation.

That initial SPS effort matured into a full-scale, NASA proposal to launch a CubeSat satellite, with Brendon's detector

forming one of the four payloads. If granted, that satellite would telemeter data for 2--5 years, in a circumpolar orbit.

In conjunction with Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty Ben Sikes,

real-time monitoring of viable fungus cultures would allow us to determine the effects of episodic cosmic-ray events

on plant metabolism (payload \#2).

The third of the four payloads is a variant of the HiCal transmitter, which would be used to provide a common

calibration source to a large number of terrestrial radio-based cosmic-ray detectors.

As part of this effort, KU SPS also worked with the Cordley Elementary School Coding Club in 2017 and

sponsored a successful weather balloon launch from the Cordley playground.

Other outreach:

I have typically led 1--2 classes/activities per year for the KU Osher Continuing Education Program. The next

such class (spring, 2018) takes on the question of whether humanity advances in some absolute moral sense, and whether

we are currently in the midst of a `paradigm' shift.

Selected Publications

Selected Grants

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