Master-class introduces secondary school students to particle physics

Posted on: 23 March 2018

Trinity hosted a masterclass in particle physics to open the eyes and minds of around 50 secondary school students to what researchers actually do in one of the most important emerging fields in science.

The students took a day off from school to dive into actual data as scientists introduced them to the tiniest building blocks of the universe and to the accelerators and detectors, which probe these mysterious particles. By analysing real data from experiments at CERN´s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) students got a taste of how modern physics research works.

Dr David Wilson, a particle physicist working on the theory of strong interaction at Trinity’s School of Mathematics said: “The students are enthusiastic about the program and enjoyed interacting with professional scientists and working with real data from the LHC.”

The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC in summer 2012 led to large public interest in understanding particle physics, and, in the day-long Masterclass, the students explored this area of the field by working with authentic data from experiments at the LHC under the supervision of physicists.

The basic idea of the program is to let students work as much as possible like real scientists. Four experiments – ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, and LHCb – have made data available for educational use within the program.

“During the day students understand how a scientific discovery can be claimed,” said PhD Candidate in Trinity’s School of Mathematics, Argia Rubeo.

At the end of the Masterclass, students connected in a video-conference with physicists at CERN and their peers in other student groups from Cincinnati, Perugia and Rio de Janeiro, to discuss their results.

Dr Umberto Markoni is an LHCb physicist who introduced the students to the experiments at CERN via video link from Bologna. He said: “In our collaboration there are thousands of scientists across the world working on the same experiment. This requires constant communication via video-conferencing, and the students also explored this real scientific working environment in the Masterclass.”

The Masterclass at Trinity College Dublin is part of an annual program called International Masterclasses. Scientists at about 210 universities and laboratories from 50 countries around the world host Masterclasses at their home institutions. The worldwide participation reflects the international collaboration in particle physics.

International Masterclasses are organised by the International Particle Physics Outreach Group (IPPOG). IPPOG is an independent group of outreach representatives from countries involved in the research at CERN and other leading research laboratories. The group’s goal is to make particle physics more accessible to the public.

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