UK News from CERN Issue 80

 

Issue 80 contents

Doubly heavy-quark baryon

Doubly charming!

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An entire family of doubly charmed baryons await discovery.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu - a powerful motto for an important experiment

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The first African-led experiment has taken place at CERN, supported by UK researchers.

acceleratAR

All you need is an app

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Always wanted to build your own particle accelerator but feel you lack the necessary experience? The University of Liverpool may have answer!

Neil McBlane

Summer of science

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“I’m getting the opportunity to meet so many people from so many countries and cultures.”

Celebration

IoP Awards

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Congratulations to Dave Charlton, Guy Wilkinson and Nigel Glover who have been honoured with awards from the Institute of Physics.


 

Doubly charming!

Doubly heavy-quark baryon

Representation of a doubly heavy-quark baryon
(Credit: CERN)

 

Five years after CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a team from the LHCb experiment has discovered a brand new heavy particle.

The new particle, named Xi-cc++ (pronounced KsÄ«-CC plus-plus), is part of a family of ‘doubly charmed baryons’ that are predicted to exist by the Standard Model, but this is the first time researchers have been able to confirm their existence.

“This discovery opens up a new field of particle physics research,” says Chris Parkes (Manchester), deputy spokesperson for the experiment. “An entire family of doubly charmed baryons related to this particle now await discovery!"

Nearly all the matter that we see around us is made of baryons - common particles composed of three quarks - the best-known being protons and neutrons. But there are six types of existing quarks, and theoretically many different potential combinations could form other kinds of baryons. All the baryons so far observed are made of, at most, one heavy quark such as a bottom or charm quark.

Patrick Spradlin (Glasgow) led the research and announced the findings at the recent European Physical Society Conference on High Energy Physics in Venice. “The properties of the newly discovered baryon shed light on a longstanding puzzle surrounding the experimental status of baryons containing two charm quarks, opening an exciting new branch of investigation for LHCb.”

“In contrast to other baryons, in which the three quarks perform an elaborate dance around each other, a doubly heavy baryon is expected to act like a planetary system, where the two heavy quarks play the role of heavy stars orbiting one around the other, with the lighter quark orbiting around this binary system,” added Guy Wilkinson (Oxford).

The observation of this new baryon was challenging and only possible thanks to the high production rate of heavy quarks at the LHC and to the unique capabilities of LHCb to identify the decay products with excellent efficiency. Physicists now have high expectations that other representatives of the doubly charmed baryon family could be detected.

 

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Ubuntu* - a powerful motto for an important experiment

Ubuntu

Students and staff working on the first African-led experiment at CERN.
(Credit: Stephanie Hills)

 

The first African-led experiment has taken place at CERN, supported by UK researchers.

Students and staff from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) have investigated the isotope Selenium 70. The nucleus is known to have two possible shapes depending on its excitation state, and the team wanted to examine the relationship between shape and energy more closely.

South Africa joined the Isolde collaboration in March 2017 to benefit from HIE-Isolde’s beams of unstable, exotic particles – the country’s own nuclear physics facility has a source of stable beams. The selenium 70 experiment, using Miniball, is the first to be approved.

“We’re going to be accelerating a selenium beam into a platinum target,” explains PhD student Kenzo Abrahams, as the rest of the team configures the experiment. "By colliding two nuclei, we will cause the excitation of the selenium 70 isotope, and by measuring the intensity of the gamma ray decay, we’ll know which shape has been excited.”

The UWC team, comprising masters and PhD students from the coulomb excitation group, led by Professor Nico Orce and supported by experiment co-lead, Professor David Jenkins from the University of York, certainly feel that they are blazing the way for other South African universities to submit proposals. “The University of the Western Cape is a historically disadvantaged institution,” explains Nico, “we have team members from rural areas of the Eastern Cape, and others who live in townships. I hope this experiment will have a domino effect, encouraging similar students and universities to aim for the top.”

And that’s already happening; Sifiso Ntshangase from the University of Zululand is part of the experiment, and the opportunity to be involved has contributed to him becoming a Team Leader for his institution.

Totalling 11 people, the experimental team is much larger than Isolde would normally welcome, but Nico was determined to give as many of his students as possible the opportunity to use one of the world’s best research facilities.

Senamile Masango is a masters student, “this is my first time outside South Africa and it’s very exciting to be at CERN,” she says, “it’s every scientist’s dream to come to facilities like this!”

Passionate about her subject, and highly motivated, Senamile is also well aware that she is an important role model, “you will hardly find any women doing physics in South Africa, and you will hardly find any black physicists. Nico treats us all equally and he’s making us hungry to break every barrier. We’re making history!”

“The skills that the students are learning at CERN are transformational,” says George O’Neill. Having finished his PhD at Liverpool, George wanted the challenge of working in a new lab; he was attracted by both the facilities at UWC and Nico’s ethos, “Everyone in this group will go on to be a professor,” he adds.

David Jenkins is co-leading the experiment. “I’ve worked with Nico for a long time and I’ve been teaching at his ‘Tastes of Nuclear Physics’ summer school for five years. UWC has a real battle to get funding and Nico has jumped through so many hoops to get here. I wanted to get them involved at Isolde and help build the research expertise in the team.”

If the extraordinary levels of energy and motivation demonstrated by the team are mirrored by the experimental results, then UWC is set to become a significant name in international nuclear physics.

*Ubuntu is a Xhosa word, translated by one of the team as “I am, because we are”. It sums up the essence of this passionate and motivated group of young scientists.

 

Meet the students and staff involved in the experiment
(Credit: CERN)

 

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All you need is an app

acceleratAR
(Credit: Cockcroft Institute / University of Liverpool)

 

Always wanted to build your own particle accelerator but feel you lack the necessary experience? The University of Liverpool may have answer!

In a collaboration with STFC, Manchester and the Cockcroft Institute, Liverpool researcher Chris Edmonds has designed an augmented reality app that allows you to build your own accelerator using just a smartphone or tablet and a series of paper cubes, each of which is printed with a different design.

Using the device’s camera, each cube appears as one of the components required to make the accelerator work; a particle source, a radio frequency cavity and the different types of magnets that you need to direct the beam around the accelerator or focus it ready for collisions. The faces of each cube offer a different magnetic or electric field allowing you to tune your accelerator and see the effects of different configurations on the particle beam.

On one level the app is just a game, but there’s a serious purpose; particle accelerators are becoming more common with applications in medicine and industry as well as physics and Chris and his team want to inspire more people about accelerator science and the potential that the technology offers.

You can download the app for free on Google Play, with the templates to build the cubes.

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Summer of science

Savannah Clawson

Savannah Clawson
(Credit: Savannah Clawson)

Over the summer, CERN looks and feels a bit different. More than 280 undergraduate students are here for an experience that is often career changing, and sometimes even life changing.

The CERN summer student programme combines lectures from world-class physicists, engineers and computer scientists with hands-on projects to give an internationally unique development opportunity. Competition for places on the programme is intense.

Savannah Clawson (Manchester) and Neil McBlane (Edinburgh) were awarded places on the 2017 programme. Both are about to go into their final year of integrated masters courses.

“It’s a great place for physics, but I hadn’t expected such diversity,” says Savannah. “I’m getting the opportunity to meet so many people from so many countries and cultures.”

The lecture programme draws speakers from across the CERN community. “They’re a great way to start the day,” says Neil. “I really enjoyed Andrew Cohen’s (Boston) lectures on theoretical concepts in particle physics.” Savannah was in complete agreement, “there was no PowerPoint, just blackboard style – Andrew’s passion came across, he was so engaging.”

Every student is also given a project to complete during the summer programme. Neil is working on the ATLAS calorimeter. “Conceptually, it’s a simple project,” he says, before going on to explain how the 16 sections of the detector are moving apart due to their mass. The distances are tiny, but the effect on the data is considerable and Neil is developing an adjustment that can be applied to the data during processing.

He’s not yet sure what path he’ll follow when he completes his masters; but he’s very clear that the skills and techniques that he’s picked up in Edinburgh, at Caltech during his exchange year, and here at CERN are applicable outside physics.

Savannah’s project is to assess the efficiency of photomultiplier tubes on the Collaps beamline in the Isolde nuclear physics facility. It’s been an interesting, and practical, contrast to the more theoretical content of her course at Manchester, “It’s a very hands-on project with a lot of engineering – I’ve been fixing broken kit by figuring things out; I’ve even learnt to solder. I never imagined doing a project like this – I expected to be programming!”

Neil McBlane

Neil also has an indoor office
(Credit: Neil McBlane)

She hopes to pursue a career in research, probably in industry.

All the student projects are real, and the requirement to get it right could be daunting, but both Savannah and Neil speak very highly of the support and encouragement that they’ve received from their supervisors.

It’s clear that both students are relishing the opportunity to develop new skills and acquire new knowledge, but it’s not all work and no play – the summer student programme is very sociable too.

Myron Huzan took part in the programme last year “My summer at CERN was very rewarding both socially, by making many new friends from all over Europe, and academically by being closely involved in the research group at the ASACUSA Hydrogen beamline. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at CERN and from this I wish to pursue a PhD in Condensed Matter or Particle Physics. I’m hoping to narrow down my options during my final year at university.”

Applications for the 2018 Summer Student Programme normally open in October.

 

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IoP Awards

Celebrations

(Credit: Pixabay)

 

Congratulations to Dave Charlton (Birmingham and ATLAS), Guy Wilkinson (Oxford and LHCb) and Nigel Glover (Durham) who have been honoured with awards from the Institute of Physics.

Dave, who was Spokesperson for the ATLAS collaboration until earlier this year, has been awarded the Glazebrook Medal and Prize “for his leadership in experimental work on the electroweak standard model, beginning with the study of Z-boson decays at LEP and culminating in the discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC.”

Guy, who was Spokesperson for the LHCb experiment until the end of June, has been awarded the Chadwick Medal and Prize “for his outstanding contributions to the experimental study of heavy quarks and CP violation, most especially for his leadership of and decisive contributions to, the LHCb experiment at CERN.”

Nigel has been awarded the Rayleigh Medal and Prize “for pioneering new methods for the application of perturbative quantum chromodynamics to high energy processes involving energetic jets leading to sophisticated simulation codes that are being used to describe LHC data.”

Warmest congratulations to all of you!

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