Summer 2011 @ CERN
The Syracuse University HEP group joined QuarkNet in 2011, and held its Year One Institute at CERN during Summer 2011. We were delighted to have recruited two very enthusiastic high school teachers to serve as lead teachers for our Quarknet program at Syracuse: Mr. Ranald Bleakley from the rural Weedsport High School, Weedsport, Cayuga County , NY; and Mr. Joshua Buchman from the suburban Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Manlius, NY.
Several possible summer programs were developed and presented to the teachers. A program involving the development of a stand-alone software program to visualize collisions in LHCb was preferred by both teachers. This software-based research experience was held at CERN and was supervised by Professor Blusk, ably assisted by graduate students Alessandra Borgia and Justin Garofoli, and Research Professor J.C. Wang.
Goals for the Summer
This main goals of the eight-week experience at CERN were to:
- Gain a deeper understanding of the science of particle physics;
- Learn about and understand the complexity of the experiments;
- Gain a deeper understanding of the role of studying beauty hadrons in our quest to discover New Physics; and
- Develop a ROOT-based analysis program that: (1) animates proton-proton collisions and displays the decays of beauty particles in LHCb (either Monte Carlo simulated data or real LHCb data; and (2) shows statistical distributions of selected variables, such as the reconstructed invariant mass of the B-particle, its energy, momentum, decay distance, proper decay time, etc.
In addition, our teachers took advantage of their time at CERN to tour the LHC experiments (LHCb, ATLAS, CMS, ALICE); spend time in the LHCb control room learning about how real data are collected; and attend some of the CERN summer lecture series. Plus, of course, there were many cultural attractions as well, to occupy off-hours!
In preparation for the summer program, Prof. Blusk developed a software tutorial on Linux, C++ and ROOT, and with pointers to other relevant resources. There was a lot of interaction time during the eight-week program, during which there was discussion of general particle physics concepts, as well as specific points related to the project. The teachers worked on developing the ROOT-based event display which has the advantage of not being too complicated, and being based on an open source, so it can be downloaded to their schools’ local computers.
This program makes an event display which shows the collision between two packets of protons that give rise to a pair of bottom quarks. One of the bottom quarks produces a B meson and is fully reconstructed in one of several decay channels. In this summer’s program we have included two hadronic decays:
- B0 → D–π+π–π+, or
- B0 → D–π+, with D– → K+π–π+.
To make the connection between “single events” and “statistical distributions”, distributions of selected variables are shown (the green plots). This full event display package contains the event display program and the needed ROOT-based data. It is easily transferrable to a high school classroom, only requiring a local installation of ROOT on a Windows machine. We have helped facilitate that for the Year One teachers.
In addition to enhancing their understanding of particle physics and how particle physics research is conducted, the teachers also learned more about using computers to solve scientific problems. In high school physics, essentially all problems are solvable analytically, and hence not only students, but teachers as well, may not fully appreciate the role and importance of computers to solve physical problems. This research experience demonstrated the critical role computers play in scientific research, and as a result the teachers can more convincingly stress the importance of computer programming to students interested in pursuing scientific careers.
This experience, as well as a better understanding of the ideas of particle physics, are two of the take-away items that teachers can bring back to their classroom.