Particle School at CERN


CERN, Geneva


23rd August 2019

Additional information:

Year 12 physics students, who are interested in applying for Physics, Computing or Engineering at university, were invited to apply by writing an essay, for the Particle School at CERN in August 2019, run by Professor Themis Bowcock and the LHCb experiment research group.

Congratulations to William (Dulwich College), Ella and Leila (JAGS), Miranda (Alleyn’s), Thomas (Kingsdale) and Bill (Charter School North Dulwich) who have been offered places on this amazing trip.

The Liverpool University LHCb group have agreed to host this fantastic scholarly opportunity for the ninth year.

The aim of the Particle School is to give future Physicists exposure to the life of a researcher, at CERN. The students, who work with like-minded peers, will have access to data from the LHCb experiment at CERN, through dedicated activities and lectures. They will also experience the day-to-day atmosphere of the CERN laboratory. This experience has been extremely well received by previous delegates, many of whom have achieved undergraduate places at top universities and some are now pursuing post-graduate studies in Physics.

For the fourth year, we are extending places to include schools in the Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership and there will be a total of twelve available places (plus two supervisors) for the South East region, with six places offered to the King Edward schools in Birmingham (plus one supervisor), making eighteen students in total. Places will be offered based on selection of essays, written by students, from a set list of titles, which will be selected by Professor Bowcock.

Trip logistics and cost
The visit will be over four nights, leaving on Monday 19 August and returning on Friday 23 August 2019. Travel to and from Geneva will be via air from Gatwick. Students will need to make their own way to and from Gatwick Airport. Students will need a valid passport and European Health Card.

We have been offered some funding towards places for state school applicants and are seeking further funding in the hope that the costs charged to such pupils should not exceed £300. This will be confirmed in due course, but the cost should not deter pupils from applying. This will be inclusive of flights, accommodation at the Geneva Youth Hostel, all food (breakfast at the hostel, lunch and dinner at CERN, the Particle School Dinner) and an evening bowling.

How to apply
Application was a competition via essay submission by Thursday 10 January 2019.

The Essay Task
From Professor Bowcock:
“Write a short essay of less 800 words on ONE of the topics listed below. Where you have made use of textbooks, journals or the internet for material these must be referenced. Do not hesitate to use diagrams (and mention their sources) if it will help clarify a point to the reader. The topics are of current interest to physicists at CERN but you do not have to make your talk CERN-centric! Whatever topic you do chose ensure you introduce the basic concepts you use as if explaining to someone with little scientific background.”

Essay titles:
i. What is Supersymmetry?
ii. Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry in the Universe
iii. Dark Energy and Dark Matter
iv. Explore an engineering breakthrough that set LHC apart from previous particle accelerators.
v. How are proton beams used in non-LHC experiments at CERN?
vi. How is the design of LHCb better suited to the study of B Meson decays than a general purpose detector?
vii. What new physics can LHCb directly or indirectly detect, and how?
viii. For what physics goals is it important to have ~360 degree general purpose detectors like CMS and ATLAS?
ix. Cosmology is the study of the universe at a macroscopic scale whilst particle physics is concerned with the smallest scales imaginable. How can cosmologists work with particle physicists?
x. Why is the Higgs Boson important to particle physicists?

The skill is to keep the essay concise, yet with clarity and substance, and with attention paid to the designated audience as stated above.
Essays selected in the past were those that used all 800 words but not more. One was rejected since it was overly mathematical and ultimately ended up a little confused and another was too brief and consequently did not provide sufficient depth. Professor Bowcock also ran the essays through the plagiarism software they use at the university, so own words and careful, in-line referencing are essential.