High school students take part in Higgs boson masterclass

30 October 2013

Sydney high school students on a video link with Fermilab in Chicago
Sydney high school students on a video link with Fermilab in Chicago

Forty high school students from Sydney have taken part in an international physics masterclass at the University inspired by the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson particle.

The School of Physics ran the one-day masterclass in collaboration with the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP) and the International Particle Physics Outreach Group. Across Australia, almost 100 students took part in the masterclass, which also took place concurrently at the University of Adelaide and the University of Melbourne.

Particle physicists from the University's CoEPP node, a part of the ATLAS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider, tutored the students as they worked with real data generated from the experiment. The LHC at CERN is the world's largest particle accelerator and recreates the conditions that occurred just after the Big Bang to explore the fundamental building blocks of the universe.

An ATLAS event with 2 muons and 2 electrons (Image: CERN)
An ATLAS event with 2 muons and 2 electrons (Image: CERN)

Kevin Varvell, director of CoEPP's Sydney node, said: "Research on the Higgs boson is not something remote that you read about in the paper or see on the news, but happens in part right here. Our collaboration highlights the fact that here on the other side of the world to the laboratories which house these giant accelerators, Australian scientists at universities such as the University of Sydney are involved in this research."

The masterclass also gave students the opportunity to connect with particle physicists around the world, including a video link with Fermilab in Chicago and a virtual visit of CERN in Geneva.

Associate Professor Varvell continued: "One of the most important things the masterclass can do is to convey some the sheer wonder and excitement of fundamental science as it is carried out at places like CERN and Fermilab. We feel it as scientists but it is good to carry that out to the general public and school students."

During their virtual tour of the ATLAS control room, Steven Goldfarb, Outreach and Education Coordinator at ATLAS, showed the students how a particular physics collaborations works. "They interact with real scientists and find out that we do not all wear lab coats and pocket protectors," he said. "In our exchanges, we give them a more realistic description of what a career in science is like, and whether or not it is worthwhile investing all those years at university."

Contact: Richard North

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