Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Physics & Astronomy
Research Projects: Particle (LHC) and High-Energy Nuclear (RHIC and LHC) Physics
of the Charm and Beauty Quarks
Webster, Paul Sheldon, Will Johns)
This elementary particle physics (EPP) research group is investigating
fundamental questions about the structure and behaviour of the universe.
Their work provides information about the weak and strong forces (counterparts
to gravity and electromagnetism) and offers sensitive probes for new fundamental
phenomena. They are major contributors to two active experiments: the
FOCUS experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab),
near Chicago, Illinois, and the CMS experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
The CMS experiment will operate at the highest energies ever achieved
for particle collisions. They hope to find new and exotic states of matter
that shed light on the physics described above. The FOCUS experiment has
finished data taking; the group is still producing interesting results
on properties of particles containing a charm quark. Undergraduates in
the group have performed published work on charm decays from FOCUS, worked
on detector development, and participated in large scale computing projects.
An REU student could be expected to participate on FOCUS or perform physics
simulations for CMS.
Heavy Ion Collisions
Victoria Greene, Charles
Properties of nuclear matter at extreme temperatures and energy densities are being investigated at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Recent discoveries at RHIC show that the matter produced in high energy collisions of heavy ions exhibits interesting collective behavior. Contrary to expectations, the Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) produced at RHIC does not behave like a gas of non-interacting quarks and gluons, but rather - a liquid with very low viscosity. Studying the properties of QGP is crucial for understanding the state of matter at the beginning of the Universe. An important aspect of these studies is the investigation of the particle production mechanisms, their collective flow and the correlations between them. Experimentally, it is important to identify the particles coming out of the collisions and to study the flow as a function of the particle mass and momentum. The relativistic heavy ion group at Vanderbilt has been involved in an upgrade of the PHENIX detector that greatly enhanced the particle identification capabilities at high momentum. The students may get involved in analyzing identified particle data from a recent RHIC run. The next stage in the study of the QGP will commence with the first heavy ion beam at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Laboratory for Nuclear Research (CERN), Switzerland. Our group is involved in the CMS experiment with major responsibilities for data quality monitoring, offline computing, and we are leading the physics analysis of collective flow. The students will be involved in data quality monitoring at the Vanderbilt data center featuring live connection to CERN.
The phenomenon of neutrino oscillations has been established by a number
of experiments. This phenomenon is the only existing experimentally measured
physics that lies outside the standard model of particle physics. A model
of the essential physics contained in each existing experiment has been
developed and used to analyze the world's data. Since the underlying physics
is that of a three state quantum mechanical system, an undergraduate student
can readily learn the necessary mathematical ingredients. Projects for
future work could include adding a future experiment to the model and
investigating the implications of possible results, or improving on the
model of one of the existing experiments, or calibrating the model results
against a full analysis code which is being developed, or producing a
video which depicts in a visually dramatic way the oscillation of the
neutrinos as they occur in each of the experiments, or assisting in the
writing of an article for the American Journal of Physics which would
present neutrino oscillations at a level accessible to the undergraduate
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work supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings,
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Physics and Astronomy
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