Dave Z. Besson

Dave Z. Besson
  • Physics and Astronomy Professor - Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Contact Info

Malott Hall, 5093
1251 Wescoe Hall Drive


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 (habitually awful) evaluations, there are obviously many areas that could benefit from considerable improvement.

In addition, I usually teach, 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 varying between 3-6 graduate students 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 generally good placement, including good post-doctoral positions and also faculty positions


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 most recent 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).

Selected Publications

Gorham, P. W., and David Besson. “Antarctic Surface Reflectivity Measurements from the ANITA-3 and HiCal-1 Experiments.” Journal Articles, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1142/S2251171717400025.

Abbasi, R. U., and David Besson. “First Upper Limits on the Radar Cross Section of Cosmic-Ray Induced Extensive Air Showers.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 87 (2017): 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2016.11.006.

Barwick, S. W., and David Besson. “Radio Detection of Air Showers with the ARIANNA Experiment on the Ross Ice Shelf.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 90 (2017): 50–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2017.02.003.

others, P. W. Gorham, and David Besson. “Characteristics of Four Upward-Pointing Cosmic-Ray-like Events Observed with ANITA.” Journal Articles. Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, no. 7 (2016): 071101. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.117.071101.

others, H. Schoorlemmer, and David Besson. “Energy and Flux Measurements of Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays Observed During the First ANITA Flight.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 77 (2016): 32–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2016.01.001.

others, Harm Schoorlemmer, and David Besson. “Energy and Flux Measurements of Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays Observed During the First ANITA Flight.” Journal Articles. Proceedings, 34th International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC 2015): The Hague, The Netherlands, July 30-August 6, 2015 ICRC2015 (2016): 272.

Besson, David. “  A First Search for Cosmogenic Neutrinos with the ARIANNA Hexagonal Radio Array .” Journal Articles, May 2015.

others, and S. W. Barwick. “A First Search for Cosmogenic Neutrinos with the ARIANNA Hexagonal Radio Array.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 70 (2015): 12–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2015.04.002.

Besson, David. “Antarctic Radio Frequency Albedo and Implications for Cosmic Ray Reconstruction.” Journal Articles. Radio Science 50, no. 1 (January 12, 2015).

others, and S. W. Barwick. “Design and Performance of the ARIANNA HRA-3 Neutrino Detector Systems.” Journal Articles. IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. 62, no. 5 (2015): 2202–15. https://doi.org/10.1109/TNS.2015.2468182.

others, and S. Kunwar. “Design, Construction and Operation of a Low-Power, Autonomous Radio-Frequency Data-Acquisition Station for the TARA Experiment.” Journal Articles. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A797 (2015): 110–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2015.05.072.

others, and R. Alvarez. “Experimental Probes of Radio Wave Propagation near Dielectric Boundaries and Implications for Neutrino Detection.” Journal Articles, 2015.

others, and M. G. Aartsen. “IceCube-Gen2 - The Next Generation Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole: Contributions to ICRC 2015.” Journal Articles, 2015.

others, and S. W. Barwick. “Livetime and Sensitivity of the ARIANNA Hexagonal Radio Array.” Other. Proceedings, 34th International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC 2015): The Hague, The Netherlands, July 30-August 6, 2015, 2015. http://inspirehep.net/record/1391269/files/arXiv:1509.00115.pdf.

others, and Steven W. Barwick. “Radar Absorption, Basal Reflection, Thickness and Polarization Measurements from the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica.” Journal Articles. J. Glaciol. 61 (2015): 227. https://doi.org/10.3189/2015JoG14J214.

others, and S. W. Barwick. “Time Domain Response of the ARIANNA Detector.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 62 (2015): 139–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2014.09.002.

Besson, David. “Telescope Array Radar (TARA) Observatory for Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays.” Journal Articles, September 1, 2014.

Besson, D. Z., D. M. Kennedy, K. Ratzlaff, and R. Young. “Design, Modeling and Testing of the Askaryan Radio Array South Pole Autonomous Renewable Power Stations.” Journal Articles. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A763 (2014): 521–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2014.06.005.

others, and M. G. Aartsen. “IceCube-Gen2: A Vision for the Future of Neutrino Astronomy in Antarctica.” Journal Articles, 2014.

others, and R. Abbasi. “Telescope Array Radar (TARA) Observatory for Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays.” Journal Articles. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A767 (2014): 322–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2014.08.015.

TARA Collaboration, J. Belz, and David Besson. “TARA: Forward-Scattered Radar Detection of UHECR at the Telescope Array.” Journal Articles, May 25, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1051/epjconf/20135308012.

Schröder, F. G., and David Besson. “Tunka-Rex: A Radio Antenna Array for the Tunka Experiment (ARENA 2012).” Journal Articles. AIP Conf. Proceedings, 23, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4807531.

Besson, D. “Radio-Frequency Probes of Antarctic Ice at South Pole.” Journal Articles. The Cryosphere 7, no. 3 (2013): 855–66. https://doi.org/10.5194/TC-7-855-2013.

Besson, D. “Radio-Frequency Probes of Antarctic Ice Birefringence at South Pole vs. East Antarctica: Evidence for a Changing Ice Fabric.” Journal Articles. The Cryosphere 7 (2013): 855–66.

Besson, D. Z. “Background Studies for Acoustic Neutrino Detection at the South Pole.” Journal Articles. Astroparticle Physics 35, no. 6 (2012): 312–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2011.09.004.

Allison, P., and David Besson. “Design and Initial Performance of the Askaryan Radio Array Prototype EeV Neutrino Detector at the South Pole.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 35, no. 7 (2012).

Besson, D. “Radio-Frequency Probes of Antarctic Ice Birefringence at South Pole vs. East Antarctica; Evidence for a Changing Ice Fabric.” Journal Articles. The Cryosphere Discussions 6, no. 6 (2012): 4695–4731. https://doi.org/10.5194/tcd-6-4695-2012.

Besson, Dave. Status of RadioWave Neutrino Detection. Conference Proceedings. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Vol. 404, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1088/1742-6596/404/1/012038.

Besson, D. “Tethered Balloons for Radio Detection of Ultra High Energy Cosmic Neutrinos in Antarctica.” Journal Articles. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2010.11.046.

Kravchenko, I., and David Besson. “Updated Neutrino Flux Limits from the RICE Experiment at the South Pole.” Journal Articles. Phys. Rev. D 85 (2012): 062004.

Besson, D. “Constraints on the Extremely-High Energy Cosmic Neutrino Flux with the IceCube 2008-2009 Data.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 83, no. 9 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.83.092003.

Besson, D. Z. “Measurement of Acoustic Attenuation in South Pole Ice.” Journal Articles. Astroparticle Physics 34, no. 6 (2011): 382–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2010.10.003.

Detrixhe, M., and D. Besson. “Ultrarelativistic Magnetic Monopole Search with the ANITA-II Balloon-Borne Radio Interferometer.” Journal Articles. Phys. Rev. D 83 (2011): 023513.

Besson, D. “First Search for Extremely High Energy Cosmogenic Neutrinos with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 82, no. 7 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.82.072003.

Besson, D., R. Keast, and R. Velasco. “In Situ and Laboratory Studies of Radiofrequency Propagation through Ice and Implications for Siting a Large-Scale Antarctic Neutrino Detector.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 31, no. 5 (2009).

Besson, D. “New Limits on the Ultrahigh Energy Cosmic Neutrino Flux from the ANITA Experiment.” Journal Articles. Physical Review Letters 103, no. 5 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.051103.

Besson, D. “Search for Point Sources of High Energy Neutrinos with Final Data from AMANDA-II.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 79, no. 6 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.79.062001.

Besson, D. “Simulation of a Hybrid Optical-Radio-Acoustic Neutrino Detector at the South Pole.” Journal Articles. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 604, no. 1 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2009.03.047.

Besson, D. Z. “The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna Ultra-High Energy Neutrino Detector: Design, Performance, and Sensitivity for the 2006-2007 Balloon Flight.” Journal Articles. Astroparticle Physics 32, no. 1 (2009): 10–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.astropartphys.2009.05.003.

Besson, D. “First Observation of the Decay D_s^+ to Proton Anti-Neutron.” Journal Articles. Physical Review Letters 100, no. 18 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.181802.

Besson, D. “In Situ Radioglaciological Measurements near Taylor Dome, Antarctica and Implications for UHE Neutrino Astronomy.” Journal Articles. Astropart. Phys. 29 (2008): 130–57.

Besson, D. Z. Initial Results from the ANITA 2006-2007 Balloon Flight. Conference Proceedings. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. Vol. 136, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1088/1742-6596/136/2/022052.

Besson, Dave. “Radio Cherenkov Detection of Neutrinos.” Journal Articles. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment 588, no. 1 (2008): 138–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2008.01.029.

Besson, D. “Comparison of Particle Production in Quark and Gluon Fragmentation at Sqrt s ~ 10 GeV.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 76, no. 1 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.76.012005.

Besson, D. Z. “Results from the ANITA Experiment.” Journal Articles. Modern Physics Letters A [Particles and Fields; Gravitation; Cosmology and Nuclear Physics] 22, no. 30 (2007): 2237. https://doi.org/10.1142/S0217732307024279.

Besson, D. “Search for Invisible Decays of the Upsilon(1S) Resonance.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 75, no. 3 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.75.031104.

Besson, D. “Study of Di-Pion Transitions Among Upsilon(3S), Upsilon(2S), and Upsilon(1S) States.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 76, no. 7 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.76.072001.

Besson, D. “Constraints on Cosmic Neutrino Fluxes from the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna Experiment.” Journal Articles. Physical Review Letters 96, no. 17 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.96.171101.

Besson, D. “Measurement of the Direct Photon Momentum Spectrum in Upsilon(1S), Upsilon(2S), and Upsilon(3S) Decays.” Journal Articles. Physical Review D 74, no. 1 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.74.012003.

Besson, D. “Photon Transitions in Upsilon(2S) and Upsilon(3S) Decays.” Journal Articles. Physical Review Letters 94, no. 3 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.032001.

Besson, D. “South Polar in Situ Radio-Frequency Ice Attenuation.” Journal Articles. Journal of Glaciology 51, no. 173 (2005): 231–38. https://doi.org/10.3189/172756505781829467.

Besson, David. “Design and Performance of the ARIANNA Hexagonal Radio Array Systems .” Journal Articles, Accepted/In Press.

Selected Presentations

Besson, D. (9/22/2016). Silicon PhotoMultiplier R&D at MEPhI and KU. Science of the Future Conference (II). Kazan

Besson, D. (8/31/2016). Bottomonia with the Belle-II experiment. International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP). Chicago

Besson, D. (9/20/2015). Silicon PhotoMultiplier R&D at MEPhI and KU. Science of the Future Conference. St. Petersburg

Besson, D. (8/1/2015 - 8/31/2015). Ultra High Energy Radiowave Neutrino Detection. Lomonosov Conference. Moscow

Besson, D. (6/18/2015). Status and Results from the IceCube experiment. Photon15. Akademgorodok, Russia. 

Besson, D. (4/21/2015). Ultra High Energy Cosmic Ray Detection. Novosibirsk State University and Budker Institute of Particle Physics. Novosibirsk, Russia

Besson, D. (3/14/2015). Radiofrequency Neutrino Detection in Antarctica. Weizmann Insitute, Israel. Weizmann Institute

Besson, D. (2/13/2015). Radiofrequency neutrino and cosmic ray detection. University of Groningen, Netherlands

Besson, D. (1/1/2014 - 12/31/2014). Astrophysics in Antarctica. Lecture at FIT, New York City. F.I.T., New York City

Besson, D. (1/1/2014 - 12/31/2014). Radio wave detection of neutrinos in Antarctica. UHECR14 (Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays, 2014). Springdale, UT

Besson, D. (1/1/2014 - 12/31/2014). Status of the ANITA Experiment. Conference on SPAce Research (COSPAR). Moscow

Grants & Other Funded Activity

ANITA-V. NASA. $425000.00. Submitted 3/20/2016 (11/1/2016 - 10/31/2020). Federal. Status: Proposal Submitted

Extreme Energy Particle Astrophysics with ANITA-V - University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. (Co-I). 13062. Nasa. $55000.00. (4/1/2018 - 3/31/2020). Federal. Status: Funded

Collaborative Research: 2014-2017 Development of the Askaryan Radio Array Ultra-high Energy Neutrino Detector at the South Pole. National Science Foundation. $162639.00. Submitted 6/16/2015 (10/1/2015 - 9/30/2018). Federal. Status: Funded

ANITA HiCAL-2: Real-Time Calibration of the ANITA-4 Energy Scale. NASA. $184082.00. Submitted 3/19/2015 (1/1/2016 - 12/31/2017). Federal. Status: Not Funded

Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-3). Research Opportunities in Space Science, NASA. $325000.00. (11/1/2014 - 10/31/2017). Federal. Status: Funded. Salaried Person-Months Per Year Committed to the Project: 0.04

Total Budget: $4.87M

Investigator Amount: $325,000

Fulbright Award. Submitted 1/1/2013. Federal. Status: Funded

PRIDE: Passive Radio Ice Depth Explorer. NASA. $30000.00. Submitted 1/1/2014. Federal. Status: Funded


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.