One day while in graduate school at Cornell, physicist Eve Vavagiakis '14, M.S. '17, Ph.D. '21 came home from her particle physics class with neutrinos on the brain. Captivated by the quirks of these mysterious particles and excited to be learning the science behind them, she jotted down a rhyme: “I’m a neutrino, and I am so small, that matter to me barely matters at all.”
The rest of the poem came to her easily. Soon she had a few dozen lines capturing a puzzle that particle physicists are still working on, in a friendly voice simple enough for a child. She published her poem March 22 as “I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe,” a picture book introducing children (and adults) to neutrinos, tiny particles that have an outsized effect on the universe.
As a postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences and Education – and soon to be a National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow – Vavagiakis does research that mirrors the concepts in her book. She is leading the development of Mod-Cam, a first light instrument for the Fred Young Submillimeter Telescope. She designed the instrument as a doctoral student to take pictures of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and sub-millimeter sky. Vavagiakis’s scientific understanding is reflected in her picture book’s illustrations, which were drawn by her mother, Ilze Lemesis, a professional artist.