CERN Particle School 2018

Date of past event:

20th August 2018



Year 12 physics students were invited to apply by writing an essay, for the Particle School at CERN in August 2018, run by Professor Themis Bowcock and the LHCb experiment research group.

The aim of the Particle School was to give future Physicists exposure to the life of a researcher, at CERN. Students had access to data from the LHCb experiment at CERN and also experienced the day-to-day atmosphere of the CERN laboratory.

The Liverpool University LHCb group, who hosted this opportunity for the eighth year, opened the opportunity to all SSLP schools for the third time. There were a total of twelve available places (plus two supervisors) for the Southwark Borough.

Trip logistics and cost
The visit ran over four nights, leaving on Monday 20st August and returning on Friday
24th August 2018. Some funding towards places for state school applicants was available so that the costs charged to pupils did not exceed £300 (including flights accommodation and meals).

The Essay Competition
The twelve participants were the winners of any Essay Competition.

The brief was to write a short essay of less than 800 words on ONE of the topics listed below. The winning essays were properly referenced, original and aimed at introducing the basic concepts of the chosen topic 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?


On a project to design their own experiment

“It made me think about the science behind the detectors, and through it got me curious in many fields I had no idea even existed or could even be possible, such as negative absolute temperature. It also really made us work as teams, for however short a time we had, which was a valuable experience on the trip.”

“Talking with the PhD students to get inspiration for matter-antimatter collisions rather than matter-matter collisions and figuring out the need for a Bose-Einstein condensate were very memorable.”

On a data selection exercise using the software used by Particle Physicists:

“After the first few minutes of being introduced to the software and the different parameters we had to manipulate, my team and I worked perfectly throughout. We understood what we had to do and were making rapid progress. Each of our teammates had a go at the coding part to make it more fair and making good cuts (or sometimes bad ones) were celebrated or laughed at together as a team. It helped us to bond better as well.”

“I enjoyed how my thoughts went from ‘oh wow this is hard’ at the start of the workshop to ‘five more minutes’ at the end. – Coding was very interesting and the workshop (as well as the other times coding was mentioned during talks) has inspired me to learn how to code in my spare time”

General comments:

“I loved seeing the control rooms (especially going into the LHCb control room) which was really interesting as I was able to physically see the data from the experiments in action and what physicists were doing. I also liked the microcosm as it was very interactive and the information was understandable and informative.”

“I came into the particle school with very limited understanding about particle physics, especially as we had not covered it at all within GCSEs and had not started it in A levels yet. However, after leaving the particle school, I felt as if I had learnt so many new and interesting ideas where I can confidently answer questions on aspects of particle physics. It was also shown in our group presentations which we went into a lot of detail about how our experiment would work and the underlying physics principles associated with each step. It was a fantastic experience and I really am grateful to be a part of such a superb group. I would like to say thank you to all the teachers and lecturers who presented at CERN as it was a truly enlightening 5 days!”

“The experience was amazing and I have met some great people who I would definitely like to stay in touch with. I am extremely thankful to the team for giving me this opportunity and being so kind and helpful. The trip has definitely made me more passionate about physics, particle and experimental physics more specifically. I hope to come back one day and be involved in experiments at CERN and hopefully see you all again.”