Higgs boson breakthrough - University student involved in research responds
5 July 2012
University of Sydney PhD candidate Mark Scarcella is still taking in the significance of last night's announcement of evidence that the Higgs boson particle exists.
"I was in Melbourne at the International Conference for High Energy Physics, together with most of Australia's researchers in particle physics and another 600 international delegates, when I heard the news," said Scarcella, who completes his PhD this year and is part of the University's School of Physics team contributing to Higgs boson research.
"Even though we have assumed for some time the Higgs has existed, to see this bump in the data and have evidence is truly exciting. We can write it down - it is here!"
Scarcella has been part of the worldwide scientific research collaboration, dedicated to pinpointing the Higgs boson, for several years. Thirteen University of Sydney staff and students are currently involved in the effort being conducted at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, which made the announcement.
The result comes out of experiments done by teams of scientists operating two detectors - ATLAS and CMS - at the world's biggest atom smasher or particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider based in Geneva.
Scarcella's work is on detecting different particles called taus.
According to the current theory of particle physics the Higgs boson can decay into these taus after it is produced by collisions of particles. Looking for their signature is a way to search for the Higgs boson.
"Now we know Higgs boson is there our work will be even more important for studying its properties."
In 2010 Scarcella spent three months in Geneva at the Large Hadron Collider, training to work in the control room.
"The collider takes up a lot of space - it is 27 kilometres long and 100 metres underground but surrounded by farmland so if you didn't know you'd never realise it was there."
"It was great to finally visit and meet many of the experts in the field I'd only previously met in cyberspace."
Scarcella plans to visit Geneva again soon and next time he plans to update his skills in light of the new announcement.
"This is a great time to be working in physics and I feel really lucky to be in the right place at the right time," said Scarcella, who always loved science as a kid but whose particular interest in particle physics was sparked when he studied quarks in Year 12.
"This breakthrough means there will be many new areas of research for future students. Lots more work is now required to confirm what this Higgs boson particle actually is."
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