Yale’s Helen Caines takes a leadership role in international STAR experiment

Helen Caines has spent much of her professional life immersed in cosmic soup.

While other physicists have chased gravitational waves, cultivated qubits, and mused about dark matter, Caines has focused squarely on the thick glop of particles that transformed into nuclear matter in the first milliseconds after the Big Bang. Through studying these particles, Caines believes, humanity can come to understand the basic processes that formed the early universe at that instant.

Now Caines is a leading voice in explaining how much we’ve learned so far and what is to come. On July 1, she became co-spokesperson for the STAR experiment, an international collaboration of more than 600 physicists searching for the theorized “critical point” that transformed the universe from a soup of quarks into what we know as matter today.