Holly Pacey

Meet...Holly Pacey

Fundamental particles and interactions
Particle Physics

We work among extraordinary people doing extraordinary things; get to know some of them by reading these quick-fire interviews.

Name: Dr Holly Pacey
Job title: Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Science Postdoctoral Research Fellow

What are you currently working on?
As a member of the ATLAS collaboration, the largest experiment in CERN's Large Hadron Collider complex, my research interests lie in searching for the fundamental ingredients of the universe beyond our 'Standard Model' of particle physics. As an AI in Science Fellow, my goal is to develop Ggaphical ML algorithms for improved classification of our proton-proton collisions to seek those where beyond-Standard-Model particles were produced. I also work on improving reconstruction of ‘missing transverse momentum’, our detector signature for invisible particles like Dark Matter, and convene an ATLAS group overseeing searches for new physics in the lepton sector.

Describe a typical day
My day will begin with a coffee to switch on my brain, while I check my emails and what’s new on the arXiv. There are always a few Zoom meetings with international ATLAS colleagues to discuss recent work, and I’ll check on the progress of the searches in my group – for example helping to determine when a team has perfected their analysis strategy and is ready to unblind the collision data to see what they find.

One of the highlights of my job is working closely with PhD students every day. I work with several students in Oxford and Cambridge on various research projects from a search for multiple Higgs bosons being produced simultaneously, to developing machine learning algorithms and sophisticated calibration techniques to improve missing transverse momentum reconstruction and searches for supersymmetry. It’s always fantastic to see them grow as scientists over time and start bringing their own ideas into our work.

With the remaining time I’ll be designing or developing code to perform our data analysis to search for new physics or study the performance of missing transverse momentum in our new collision data. I’m also part of the Early Career Researcher panel for the European Committee for Future Accelerators, helping to ensure that early career scientists have their say in the future of our field.

Usually after work I’ll go and lift weights at the gym or do yoga, and then cook something tasty with my partner or eat out with friends.

If you had an entire day at your disposal (not at work), what would be your ideal way to spend it? 
It’s been a while since I’ve spent the day relaxing on a sunny beach reading a good book, or sat in the garden knitting, listening to an audiobook, and enjoying the wildlife. I also enjoy days spent exploring a new place with family or friends: visiting museums or galleries and enjoying pretty scenery with good food and company.

What is your favourite place in Oxford?
I haven’t been here long enough to come to a proper conclusion about that. The beautiful architecture around the city centre, the Botanic Garden, Natural History Museum or Gloucester Green Market are strong contenders though.

What discovery would you like to see in your lifetime?
Understanding the nature of the Dark Matter that makes up such a big portion of our universe would be amazing. There’s so much tantalising evidence for it in different places from galaxies to large-scale structure that there must be something waiting for us to discover!