By Marc Baarmand
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs for the theoretical prediction that elementary matter particles acquire their mass through interaction with a field that permeates all space. After decades of searching, the quantum of this field, called the Higgs boson – the so-called “God particle” – was discovered in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN in Geneva, Switzerland). This discovery confirmed the theoretical work of Higgs, Englert and Robert Brout (deceased), dating back to 1964, and finally solved the age-old mystery of the origin of mass.
The global effort to unlock this mystery involved thousands of scientists working at CERN, home to the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Since 2001, Florida Tech has been a member of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) project, a $550 million detector for subatomic particles along the LHC ring that collects data from proton-proton collisions.
Florida Tech faculty Marc Baarmand, Marcus Hohlmann, Francisco Yumiceva, and research scientist Igor Vodopiyanov are current members of the CMS collaboration; Laszlo Baksay, founder of the High Energy Physics group at Florida Tech, is a former member of the project. Florida Tech’s hardware contributions to the CMS detector are in two sub-detector systems. One is the optical calibration system of the hadron forward calorimeter, a device that measures the energy of particles. This work is led by Baarmand, a charter member of the CMS experiment and Florida Tech representative on its collaboration board. The other involves alignment of the tracking chambers that detect particles known as muons. This work is led by Hohlmann, the principal investigator of the current Department of Energy grant. Yumiceva led the development of techniques to identify bottom quarks, which is crucial for identifying possible ways that the Higgs bosons disintegrate. The CMS project at Florida Tech has been supported by $1.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Florida Tech group has actively participated in many CMS physics experiments and data analyses. Graduate students B. Dorney, S. Guragain, H. Mermerkaya, M. Ralich have now completed their Ph.D. dissertations based upon CMS data; V. Bhopatkar, H. Hernandez, H. Kalakhety, A. Oliver, D. Palcek and T. Roy are currently doing world-class physics analyses as part of their graduate studies. Many Florida Tech undergraduate students have also made hardware and software contributions.
The LHC accelerator and the CMS detector are now being upgraded and data collection will resume in 2015. The team looks forward to more discoveries that will provide a deeper understanding of the nature of the universe.