Ad Astra Kansas

Supercollider project yields a smashing summer for KU faculty, students

July 17 , 2008

LAWRENCE - Two University of Kansas faculty members in physics and astronomy, Alice Bean, professor, and Michael Murray, associate professor, are among more than 1,000 U.S. scientists working on projects for the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, which will launch the supercollider known as Large Hadron Collider in September.

The supercollider is designed to create conditions that existed in that instant following the “Big Bang” that some say created the universe. Scientists seek to answer questions such as “How does energy work?” and “Why did atoms survive the Big Bang?”

Five KU students and two spring graduates are working with Bean and Murray on their research projects in Switzerland during June and July. They are helping to build the Compact Muon Solenoid, which is a detector to track particles exploding from the collisions caused by two beams of subatomic particles called hadrons speeding in opposite directions inside the circular 16.5-mile track deep underground.

Bean is a lead researcher with a $2.5 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education. The grant includes scientists from KU and Kansas State University and three other universities. Their work focuses on high-energy physics. The grant supports undergraduate and graduate students from the partner universities to work for the European Center for Nuclear Research each year.

Murray is working with heavy ion physics researchers to bring online a new detector designed and built at KU called the Zero Degree Calorimeter. The detector will help physicists monitor collisons of particles in the supercollider. Those collisions will occur about 40 million times per second, Murray noted in explaining the need for a detector that can record data at super speeds.

Source: KU press release

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