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U of M physics professor Roger Rusack pictured inside the ECAL, a critical detector in the search for the Higgs boson.

University of Minnesota physicists play key role in search for Higgs boson

CERN scientists announce observation of a new particle

July 4, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/04/2012) – For more than two decades, physicists have been preparing a search for the Higgs boson – the theoretical particle that provides mass to the basic building blocks of matter and the last missing ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics. Discovery of the Higgs boson could help scientists answer questions surrounding what the Universe is made of, what forces act within it and what gives matter substance.

Researchers from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced earlier today that they have indeed observed a new particle. Whether the particle has the properties of the predicted Higgs boson remains to be seen. The official CERN press release states: "Positive identification of the new particle's characteristics will take considerable time and data. But whatever form the Higgs particle takes, our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward."

The search for the Higgs boson escalated in 2008 with the completion of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Today, the LHC smashes protons together at close to the speed of light; particles created by these collisions are analyzed by physicists working on the ATLAS and CMS experiments.

University of Minnesota researchers, graduate students and undergrads have been deeply involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment since 1993 and have played a key role in the design and construction of the CMS detector.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) serves as the U.S. hub for the nearly 1,000 scientists and engineers from U.S. universities and laboratories who participate in the CMS experiment. The official Fermilab press release contains the following quote from U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:

"I congratulate the thousands of scientists around the globe for their outstanding work in searching for the Higgs boson. Today's announcement on the latest results of this search shows the benefits of sustained investments in basic science by governments around the world. Scientists have been looking for the Higgs particle for more than two decades; these results help validate the Standard Model used by scientists to explain the nature of matter."

A University of Minnesota professor and CERN researcher who can comment on what the latest findings mean for the future of physics research is:

Roger Rusack, physics professor, School of Physics and Astronomy

Rusack has been actively involved with the LHC since 1993. He helped design and develop many of the detector’s components, including the electromagnetic calorimeter (ECAL). The ECAL measures the energies of photons produced in the collisions – a key way of searching for the Higgs boson. Rusack spent two years at CERN (2009-10) as a leader of a group of nearly 100 international physicists tasked with keeping the ECAL operating at its best. His research group has played a critical role in the search for the Higgs boson.

Twenty-nine U of M faculty, researchers, students, engineers and technicians are currently involved in the CMS experiment, which totals nearly 4,300 active people from 179 institutes and 41 countries. University physics faculty Priscilla Cushman, Yuichi Kubota, Jeremiah Mans and Rusack are members of the CMS collaboration of more than 3,200 scientists investigating a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions and particles that could make up dark matter.

To schedule an interview with Roger Rusack, please contact Matt Hodson, (612) 625-0552, or email mjhodson@umn.edu.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Science and Engineering

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CERN press release

Fermilab press release

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