STEM Professional of the week

Juan Pedro Ochoa-Ricoux, Ph.D.      
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Most Promising Engineer or Scientist, Doctoral Degree – National Labs

Dr. Juan Pedro Ochoa-Ricoux is an outstanding young scientist in the field of experimental neutrino physics with major contributions to two of the most important neutrino oscillation experiments conducted this decade already on his resume.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Dr. Ochoa-Ricoux attended a French bilingual school in his hometown, in part to honor his partial French heritage. After graduating at the top of his class with exceptional performance in science and technology, Dr. Ocho-Ricoux enrolled at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico to study physics engineering. He completed his bachelor of science degree in 2002, and was recognized by the National Association of Faculties and Schools of Engineering as Mexico’s top graduate of the year in physics.

During this stage in his education, Dr. Ochoa-Ricoux had the opportunity to work on a high-energy physics experiment at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Although still an undergraduate at CERN, he was able to tackle the difficult problem of measuring the structure of particle interactions that take the form of four of five “jets” of particles. His research made significant contributions to testing models for the long sought unified theory of electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force. This work has since been the basis for further research by his more senior colleagues, and has been cited in several Ph.D. theses and later publications in the field.

After studying abroad, including coursework at the University of Illinois, Dr. Ochoa-Ricoux attended the California Institute of Technology on a full scholarship. His area of research at Caltech focused on neutrinos, the second most abundant elementary particle in the universe. Neutrinos are extremely hard to detect, but so abundant in the universe that their properties might drive some of the most fundamental unanswered questions of physics. During his graduate research, he worked on the MINOS experiment, charged with producing the most efficient and selective technique to establish oscillations where electron neutrinos are created; one of the frontiers of high energy physics. This and other work resulted in an invitation to attend the world-renowned International School of Subnuclear Physics in Erice (“the city of science”) in Sicily during the summer of 2007, where he was singled out as the best student of the year.

Upon completing his Ph.D at Caltech, Dr. Ochoa-Ricoux was awarded the most prestigious Chamberlain Fellowship at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). As a postdoctoral researcher with LBNL, he participates in the construction and commissioning of detector systems, as well as data collection and analysis in the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment, one of the largest reactor neutrino experiments ever built. An international collaboration of about 230 scientists and engineers led by China and the United States, this experiment seeks to provide new insight into electron antineutrinos produced during fission in nuclear reactors. It’s widely considered to be a major milestone in the field that will define the next generation of neutrino exploration.

Dr. Ochoa-Ricoux and his wife live in Berkeley, California. He received a bachelor of science degree in physics from the Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico, and both a master of science degree and a Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology.

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