Physics masterclass

A message from Physics Coordinator, Ms Pingo Almada

On Tuesday 16 March, S6 and S7 Physics students participated in a masterclass on particle physics with CERN and the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics, Nikhef. As part of this programme, more than 13.000 high school students from 60 countries collaborate with over 225 universities to unravel the mysteries of particle physics.

Students began with lectures from Nikhef’s scientists and were then shown the methods of basic research at the fundaments of matter and forces, enabling them to perform measurements on real data from particle physics experiments themselves. They downloaded actual data from CERN Hadron Collider (LHC) and worked with it for some hours, guided by the scientists. Our students were very excited to hear about the discovery of Higgs boson, and later in the analysis of their data, a Z boson was identified. Just like in real international research collaborations, the participants joined a video conference with CERN in Geneva to conclude the day with a discussion about their ideas and results.

Under the current circumstances, our students found this activity very inspirational, and it's certainly given a boost to our physics lessons!

Reflections from students

Paula and Sophie: Since the lifespan of an elementary particle can be as short as 10-22 seconds, as is the case for the Higgs Boson, they often never reach the detectors of the Large Hadron Collider and therefore their existence can only be proven by identifying what particles they decay into. This was our job as we had to look at different collisions and recognize what types of particles were produced each time. The invariant masses of the particles were then plotted on a graph and the peak showed the invariant mass of a Z-Boson! We found it very intriguing to be able to process real data and learn more about the fascinating field of Particle Physics. Overall, this Masterclass was a great experience and we enjoyed the afternoon a lot!

Tibor: I learned a lot of things that I did not know even existed before. For example, CERN performs millions of particle collisions every second, and they have to figure out which ones are important and analyze them later. Also, I learned that many years worth of data was needed to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson. I really liked the masterclass, and I hope I will have the option to join another one in the future.

Judit and Alice: Although the lecture during the masterclass seemed long, it was very engaging, and therefore interesting. We found it especially creative that we got the opportunity to ask questions from actual scientists partaking in the experiment, and we had the chance to play a kahoot that they had prepared for us. We found it incredibly exciting that we actually were able to analyse some real data and go into small groups where we each had to participate and through which we learned more skills.

Tom and José: It was such an amazing experience to receive a masterclass from doctors and people that know a lot about physics, together with our classmates and our teacher.

Joaquin: It was a nice experience for all of us. Even though it was online we manage to entertain ourselves while learning which made it easier to keep up with the level of physics. I personally managed to remember some of the things we did.