Secondary School Students Enjoy Particle Physics Masterclass
Posted on: 02 March 2015
Local high-school students enjoyed an International Masterclass as Trinity College Dublin’s School of Mathematics gave them the opportunity to be particle physicists for a day. The students analysed real data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is housed at CERN, as they took part in a global initiative running in 42 countries.
Particle physics is one of the most important emerging fields in science. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC in summer 2012 led to a huge media echo and large public interest. The idea at the heart of the International Masterclasses is to let students work as much as possible like real scientists.
“Students get to find out about the reality of science by working directly with particle physicists. In International Masterclasses they get a taste of how modern research in physics works,” says Michael Kobel, physics professor from Technical University Dresden, and head of the program.
Four experiments – ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, and LHCb – made data available for educational use within the program. Students examined the products of collisions between elementary particles that travel through the 27-kilometre accelerator at close to the speed of light. Students were able to rediscover the structure of the proton, and reconstruct “strange particles” but the highlight was the hunt for Higgs bosons. ATLAS and CMS have made available real Higgs candidate events for students to track this rare, elusive, and very short-lived particle.
The worldwide participation of students reflects the international collaboration in particle physics, with students experiencing this aspect in a video conference that concluded their research day. In a video linkup with student groups in other countries and CERN participants presented their findings – much as particle physicists do in their collaborations.
Hitachi Assistant Professor of Pure & Applied Mathematics at Trinity, Dr John Bulava, organised the event. He said: "I was happy to see students attend this year's Trinity College Dublin Particle Physics Masterclass, not only from the greater Dublin area but from all around the country. Those who attended had a keen interest in particle physics and were notably engaged in the lectures, exercises, and video conference with similar schools across Europe. Unfortunately, the lack of Irish CERN membership significantly limits their further participation in particle physics at the university and post-graduate levels."
International Masterclasses are led by Technical University Dresden and QuarkNet, in close cooperation with 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.