During his freshman year, Perri Zilberman ’21 attended a talk by Stony Brook physicist Chang Kee Jung on “The Universe According to Neutrinos, Nobel Prizes, Breakthroughs and Future.” At the time he didn’t imagine that he would soon be involved in an ambitious Big Science initiative aimed at answering fundamental questions about the nature of matter and the evolution of the universe.
A subsequent discussion led to a position in Professor Jung’s group as an undergraduate researcher. And that meant joining the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), an international collaboration for neutrino science hosted by Fermilab (Batavia, Illinois) involving over 1,000 collaborators from over 180 institutions in over 30 countries.
“With the project I’m working on, I feel like I’m contributing to something larger than myself — which is an amazing feeling,” Zilberman said. “I’ve worked with people from England, Germany, Russia … the list goes on. It’s a great experience.”
As a member of Dr. Jung’s research group, Zilberman dedicated much of sophomore year to learning new software and programming tools so that he could assist the research group with its contributions to DUNE. Since then, he has been involved in creating a geometry simulation for the DUNE Near Detector and working with his group to help build a prototype scintillator detector, among other contributions. This past fall, he presented his DUNE Near Detector Geometry at the September 2019 DUNE collaboration meeting.
Before starting at Stony Brook, Zilberman already had substantive research experiences as a high school student at John F. Kennedy HS in Bellmore, NY. There, he worked for three years on an independent research project under the supervision of Dr. Peter Plavchan (George Mason University) concerning debris disks around Hot Jupiter bearing stars. For his work on this project, Zilberman was recognized as a National Young Astronomer Award First Place Winner, and was named a semifinalist in the prestigious Siemens Competition, among other honors. During this time, but as part of assisting with a separate astronomy project hoping to find exoplanets around the star AU Microscopii, he had the opportunity to remotely operate the 3-meter Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
At Stony Brook, he has been involved with the Astronomy Club, serving as Secretary this year. This involves hosting numerous on-campus outreach events, creating fun but informative weekly presentations for GBMs, and using telescopes (including the 14” telescope on the roof of the ESS building) to show both students and the public the wonders of the cosmos. He has also enjoyed working on an optical tweezers project at the Laser Teaching Center in the summer of 2018 under the direction of Samet Demircan and Dr. Harold Metcalf. After graduating, he plans to pursue PhD studies in physics.
“Try to get started with research as early as you can,” Zilberman advises other students.
“From talking to a few of my peers, I think that some have the idea that they shouldn’t ask professors to do research until they’ve taken more classes or until they have more experience,” he said. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking professors as early as you can to get involved in their research. If there’s something stopping you from being able to do the research, the professor will definitely let you know.”