University of Minnesota researchers contributed to Nobel Prize-winning Higgs discovery
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MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (10/08/2013) —Several University of Minnesota scientists were among the U.S. researchers who played a significant role in advancing the discovery of the Higgs boson, the elusive subatomic particle that plays a crucial role in the fabric of the universe. The entire physics community is celebrating today’s announcement that British theorist Peter Higgs and Belgian theorist Francois Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.
Twenty-one University of Minnesota faculty, researchers, students, engineers and technicians are currently involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment. The University of Minnesota has been involved since 1993 and has played a key role in the design and construction of the CMS detector. The University of Minnesota researchers are among nearly 2,000 physicists from U.S. institutions—including 89 U.S. universities and seven U.S. Department of Energy laboratories—who participate in the ATLAS and CMS experiments.
The majority of U.S. scientists participating in LHC experiments work primarily from their home institutions, remotely accessing and analyzing data through high-capacity networks and grid computing. The University of Minnesota was responsible for core components of the electromagnetic and hadronic calorimeters that were a critical part of the discoveries.
The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN was the culmination of decades of effort by physicists and engineers around the world, at the LHC but also at other accelerators such as the Tevatron accelerator, located at Fermilab, and the Large Electron-Positron accelerator (LEP), which once inhabited the tunnel where the LHC resides. Work by scientists at the Tevatron and LEP developed search techniques and eliminated a significant fraction of the space in which the Higgs boson could hide.
"The search for a Higgs has been a very long one, including my own Ph.D. dissertation work years ago at LEP," said University of Minnesota professor of physics and astronomy Jeremiah Mans. "To finally have an initial confirmation of the Higgs concept has been very exciting. Now we are opening the chapter of study rather than search, on which all of us in the University of Minnesota CMS group are hard at work."
University of Minnesota physics and astronomy professor Roger 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.
"It has been a long road to get here, beginning all the way back in the mid-1980’s in the time of the supercollider when we started designing detectors to find the Higgs," Rusack said. "We have been looking forward to this day since then. In all the time that we prepared for this, building detectors, analyzing data it has been a real privilege to be the person to introduce so many of our undergraduates and graduate students to the exciting world of discoveries in fundamental science. No doubt, there is much more to come."