Trinity Hosts Particle Physics Masterclass for Secondary Schools

Posted on: 16 May 2013

Trinity’s School of Mathematics joined the International CERN Masterclasses in Particle Physics involving 160 universities or research centres in 37 countries worldwide and thousands of secondary school students.

Twenty nine students from 12 different secondary schools came on campus on February 26th last to unravel the mysteries of particle physics. In the morning, they were introduced to the theory and experiments in particle physics which prepared the ground for the data analysis session which followed after lunch.

Commenting on the masterclass, Professor Stefan Sint, School of Mathematics said: “The international CERN Masterclass is an excellent way for secondary school students to get their hands on real experimental data from CERN and to gain an insight into topics and methods of basic research in particle physics”.

The data, provided by the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration, consisted of 1,900 events with electrons or muons in the final states. The task was to identify candidates for decays of W and Z bosons by looking for certain patterns. This was helped by a sophisticated visualization tool which allowed to reconstruct particle tracks and to look at them from all perspectives.

The day long masterclass ended with a video conference where these results were presented and compared with students in Rome, Italy and Rehovot, Israel during a discussion moderated by two scientists from the CMS collaboration at CERN.

Among the feedback from the students was:

“The task of analysing the data was definitely challenging but very engaging, we didn’t really have a clue at the start but we didn’t want to stop by the end!”  Michelle (6th year, Maryfield College, Drumcondra)

“Seeing how the theory we learnt from the morning lectures came to life  while analysing data from the CMS detectors was truly fascinating.”   Sean (6th year, Skerries Community College)

“The day as a whole was extremely enjoyable and I have a much better understanding of particle physics, as well as an insight into what course might best suit me” Megan (5th year, Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan)

“Talking to people from half way across the world was very enjoyable, also  I felt it was great to be able to talk to the moderators at CERN.”   Gabriel (6th year, Portmarnock Community School)

The masterclass was made possible by the work of many including the CMS collaboration, the moderators at CERN, the International Particle Physics Outreach Group (IPPOG) , staff and graduate students of the School of Mathematics, and particle physics  experimentalist Ronan Wallace, a Trinity alumnus currently doing his PhD at UCD.