Dundee is playing its part in the largest experiment in the world!

by | Oct 9, 2017

It’s 5 years since the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN – the so-called God particle that is helping humanity understand the most fundamental building blocks and forces in our universe, and ultimately allowing us to determine the fate of the universe. The particle was first predicted back in the 1960s, but it wasn’t actually identified in real life for another 50 years. It took the world’s largest experiment to give us our first glimpse of this particle; a gargantuan effort from thousands of physicists, engineers and computer scientists from across the world.

The University of Dundee has now entered the world of CERN, contributing to the world’s largest experiment to help answer some of the biggest questions about our universe, around antimatter, dark matter and dark energy.

CERN staff members as of December 2016 (total 2560)

Engineers make up the majority of CERN personnel!

When thinking of CERN, most people think of the work of the particle physicists there. However, of the 2500 staff at CERN, only 3 % are particle physicists. A hefty 77 % of staff members are engineers, scientists and technicians.

So, while we do not teach or research particle physics at the University of Dundee, we do have an excellent reputation in the areas of mechanical engineering, computing, civil engineering, art & design and applied physics. Because of that, we’re growing our relationship with CERN, exploring different and innovative ways that we can collaborate.

Orla Kelly at the CMS detector, one of the main detectors in the LHC at CERN

How can our researchers and students get involved?

We’ve been talking to colleagues at CERN about how we can join forces, and there are a number of areas where they would welcome our research and expertise:

  • Electronics: Developing state-of-the-art electronics for the detectors
  • Computing: Supporting data collection and distribution
  • Mechanical Engineering, Applied Physics: New materials science and applied laser technologies for the 27 km LHC beamline
  • Civil Engineering: Design of new buildings and structures at the various sites at CERN, above and below ground
  • Art & Design, Computing: Develop interactive displays for scientists and visitors at CERN
  • … the list goes on!

Projects can take the form of undergraduate student projects – based at Dundee or at CERN – or longer-term research projects, involving postgraduates or principle investigators, with possibilities of funding from CERN itself or from other sources.

Last month, Prof Robert Keatch in the School of Science and Engineering introduced CERN projects to his final year students, to be undertaken over the coming year. We are also in the early stages of establishing new research projects, which will see some of our academics make a significant contribution to the research efforts at CERN. This builds on the existing work of Prof Amin Abdolvand in the School of Science and Engineering, who has been pioneering research that could impact on the next upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider; the High Luminosity LHC aims to “crank up the performance of the LHC”, increasing the likelihood of new and significant discoveries in decades to come.

Dundee expertise can enhance the research output at CERN, and a CERN partnership can strengthen the activities of our teaching and research at Dundee. Later this year we hope to have a more news on how our collaborations are taking shape. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about what we’ve been up to, or how you could get involved, contact Orla Kelly in RIS.

In March 2017, the Principle and a special delegation from the University were invited to tour CERN and meet the CERN Directors and Heads of Departments
University of Dundee have been growing our partnership with CERN throughout 2017

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