Dr. Kassahun Betre
Assistant Professor of Physics, Pepperdine University
My name is Kassahun Haileyesus Betre. I was born and raised in Kotebe, Addis Ababa. I attended Selam Children's Village Elementary school grades one through eight, and Kokebe Tsibah Secondary school grades 9 through 11. After that, I completed two more years of College preparatory education in Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, I came to Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota where I completed my undergraduate degree with Physics and Maths majors. Immediately following my undergraduate training, I came to Stanford University to pursue a ph.d. in theoretical particle physics. I conducted my dissertation research at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. I am currently a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Stanford University teaching introductory first year courses in the Thinking Matters program.
Currently, my main interest is teaching physics. As a teaching fellow, I work as part of collaborative teams that teach courses designed to give first year students critical thinking and analysis skills and train them in the scientific method. For example, one of the courses I co-taught is called Thinking About the Universe. It is a course in cosmology combined with philosophy of science that raises fundamental questions in epistemology through the lens of cosmology. Through explorations of questions such as "What do we know about the universe? How do we know it? And, are there limitations to what we can know about the universe?" we study the experiments, theories, and philosophical principles that shaped our theory of the origin and evolution of the universe.
I am also interested in research in fundamental particle physics. My interest in particle physics was shaped by my exposure to undergraduate research. In my undergraduate career, I spent three summers working with my mentor Professor Tonnis ter Veldhuis on aspect of the string theory-inspired AdS/CFT correspondence in which the dynamics of a soliton embedded in a (1+1)-dimensional Anti-de-Sitter space is shown to have the corresponding description in a (0+1)-dimensional Conformal Field Theory.
In my dissertation work, I have pursued a number of projects that address the question: ``How can we find signatures of new forces and particles near the electroweak symmetry breaking scale of around 1 TeV?" Progress in answering this question requires both increasingly accurate understanding of Standard Model backgrounds, and more in-depth study of Standard Model processes, where new physics is expected to be visible as a few-percent-level deviation. In both cases, numerical computer simulations are indispensable. Producing simulations that aid the effort of the particle physics community in this endeavor has been the primary effort of my graduate career. Towards this end, I produced a Monte Carlo simulation of Parton Showers that are able to sample efficiently the phase space of QCD events with large multiplicity of hard jets with wide angular separations. These regions of QCD phase space are not well approximated in the leading simulations that are based on soft and collinear emissions. My work, therefore provided a proof of concept for a new approach towards a more accurate simulations of hadronic events.
I am passionate about the intersection of physics and philosophy, as well as research and liberal arts education. I hope to inspire and train the next generation of physicists who will advance the frontiers of our beloved field.