Stephen Jacob Sekula


Stephen Sekula is a Professor of Physics at Queen’s University and Research Group Manager in the Research Division at SNOLAB, both located in Ontario, Canada. His current focus is on supporting and enhancing the Research Group at SNOLAB and finding ways to work across the laboratory to do the same for its User Community. When he is not engaged in those activities, he conducts some research in astroparticle physics (the use of subatomic particles to study the largest structures in the universe) on the HALO and PICO experiments. HALO is a sensitive neutrino detector designed to provide early alerts for galactic supernovas, none of which have occurred visibly in over 300 years (and are thus long overdue). PICO is a liquid-based dark matter detector designed to push the boundaries of sensitivity to direct searches for dark matter’s constituents.

Prior to August 2022, he was a Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at Southern Methodist University. There, he taught physics and conducted research at the energy frontier (the ATLAS Experiment). The theme of his work was the use of heavy quark flavors (bottom and charm) to probe the nature of the Higgs boson. This work was most recently focused on the search for two Higgs particles simultaneously produced by singular proton-proton collisions. He has previously co-convened the ATLAS b-jet trigger signature group (2018-2020), led software development efforts in the ATLAS Higgs Hbb Subgroup (2017-2018) and co-convened the ATLAS Higgs Subgroup 6: Beyond-the-Standard Model Higgs Physics from 2012-2013. He has contributed to the measurement of decay modes of the Higgs boson, especially decaying to bottom quarks, and to the measurement of the Higgs’s spin-parity quantum numbers.

From 2020-2022 he was also involved in the nascent high-energy physics community working to help advance the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC). He served as the co-convener of the ATHENA proto-collaboration’s jets, heavy flavor, electroweak, and beyond the standard model physics group. The goal of this proto-collaboration was to design a detector concept for the EIC that will be built at Brookhaven National Laboratory. His work focused on the implications of detector design for jet and heavy flavor physics, especially the production of charm quark jets.

He is the author of a growing number of non-fiction books. In 2022 he published the first in a planned series intended for both the general public and for early college students (“The Friendly Physics Guides to … “). He also recently co-authored, with S. James Gates Jr. (Ford Foundation Professor of Physics at Brown University) and Frank Blitzer (formerly an aerospace engineer who worked directly on the APOLLO missions) a book for a general audience entitled “Reality in the Shadows (or) What the Heck’s the Higgs?” The book was published in November, 2017 by YBK Publishers in New York and chronicles the people and the discoveries that helped propel us to our modern understanding of the cosmos, as well as the many mysteries that remain to be resolved.

Awards and Honors

  • SMU Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor (2017)
  • HOPE (Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence) Professor of the Year (2016)
  • SMU Rotunda Outstanding Professor Award (2015)
  • Chi Omega Professor of the Month Award, Iota Alpha Chapter of the Chi Omega Sorority (2015)
  • SMU Golden Mustang Award, which is ” . . . given each year to a junior, tenure-track faculty member, whose teaching is consistently excellent; whose courses reflect thoughtful curricular development; and whose scholarship makes a meaningful contribution to the discipline and to student learning.” (2012)
  • Bausch and Lomb Award (1994)