University College London
have always had a deep curiosity about the world around us, and was drawn to
science because it gave me the tools to learn more. One of the most basic questions has always
been: what is the world made of? As a particle physicist, I am able to answer this in a more detailed way
than ever before.
We have a very successful picture of the universe being composed of basic
building blocks: tiny sub-atomic particles which make up everything we see
around us. But until last year there was a problem: the equations describing these
particles require them to be massless. This is means we had missed something
major, as experimentally we see that in fact almost all do have mass. In 1963, a
new interaction was predicted to explain these masses; this interaction came
associated with a new particle, the Higgs Boson.
It took almost 50 years to finally find proof for this explanation, with the discovery
of a new particle at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland in July
2012. And while this discovery has gone a long way to answering one of the
biggest sub-atomic mysteries, it is also a huge technical achievement. To produce
and detect the Higgs boson, the LHC accelerates protons to very close to the
speed of light before smashing them head on. Giant detectors collect the
remnants of these collisions, which happen 40 million times every second. This
required new advances including ultra fast electronics, particle detection, and
distributed computing techniques, many of which have already found applications
in industry and medical imaging.
But there are still many open questions in particle physics, and any further
discoveries we make at the LHC over the coming years will lead to a greater
understanding not only of these tiny particles, but of even the largest galaxies
which are, after all, made up of these same building blocks. This really is a good
time to be a scientist!
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)