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Workshop: NeurIPS 2023 Workshop: Machine Learning and the Physical Sciences

Interpretable Joint Event-Particle Reconstruction at NOvA with Sparse CNNs and Transformers

Alexander Shmakov · Alejandro Yankelevich · Jianming Bian · Pierre Baldi


The complex events observed at the NOvA long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment contain vital information for understanding the most elusive particles in the standard model. The NOvA detectors observe interactions of neutrinos from the NuMI beam at Fermilab. Associating the particles produced in these interaction events to their source particles, a process known as reconstruction, is critical for accurately measuring key parameters of the standard model. Events may contain several particles, each producing sparse high-dimensional spatial observations, and current methods are limited to evaluating individual particles. To accurately label these numerous, high-dimensional observations, we present a novel neural network architecture that combines the spatial learning enabled by convolutions with the contextual learning enabled by attention. This joint approach, TransformerCVN, simultaneously classifies each event and reconstructs every individual particle's identity. TransformerCVN classifies events with 90% accuracy and improves the reconstruction of individual particles by 6% over baseline methods which lack the integrated architecture of TransformerCVN. In addition, this architecture enables us to perform several interpretability studies which provide insights into the network's predictions and show that TransformerCVN discovers several fundamental principles that stem from the standard model.

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