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Physics Professors Guide Utah Students to Win 2019 CERN Beamline Competition

Two teams of high-school students, one from West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and one from the Praedinius Gymnasium in Groningen, Netherlands, have won the 2019 Beamline for Schools competition (BL4S). In October, these teams will be invited to the DESY research center in Hamburg, Germany, to carry out their proposed experiments together with scientists from CERN and DESY.

Winners from West High School

The 2019 CERN Beamline for Schools winners: (from left) The team from West High School in Salt Lake City (Image: Kara Budge) and the team from the Praedinius Gymnasium in Groningen, Netherlands (Image: Martin Mug).

Professor Charlie Jui and associate professor Pearl Sandick advised the students from West on their proposal for an experiment that uses beamline. Beamlines deliver a stream of subatomic particles to any given set-up, making it possible to study a broad variety of properties and processes in various scientific disciplines. Beamlines are operated at laboratories such as CERN and DESY.

"We're really proud of our West students," said Jui. "They worked hard and it shows in the recognition they've received. I'm really stoked about their win!" This year, 178 teams from 49 countries submitted proposals to the competition.  

The proposal from the “DESY Chain” team from West High focuses on the properties of scintillators. These are materials used for particle detection. The students aim to study the performance of these scintillators and compare their sensitivity to electrons and positrons, which may lead to more efficient particle detectors for a wide range of applications.

You can see the work of the West students in a video: v=sdexfXt2o30

“I’m so excited by the prospect of working at DESY this autumn--it's such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m proud to be a part of the first USA team to win the BL4S competition, especially because it provides access to equipment and systems I would otherwise never have dreamt of even seeing,” said August Muller from the “DESY Chain” team.

The two winning teams will look at fundamental differences between matter and antimatter. When electrons at high energies collide with a target, such as a piece of graphite, some of their energy gets transferred into photons. These photons can, in turn, transform into other particles. Eventually, a shower of particles at lower energy will develop. The team “Particle Peers” from the Praedinius Gymnasium, Groningen, Netherlands, has proposed to compare the properties of the particle showers originating from electrons with those created from positrons, the antimatter partner of the electron.

Due to the second long shutdown of CERN’s accelerators for maintenance and upgrade, there is currently no beam at CERN, which has opened up opportunities to explore partnerships with other laboratories, namely DESY.

Beamline for Schools is an Education and Outreach project funded by the CERN & Society Foundation and supported by individual donors, foundations and companies. For 2019, the project is partially funded by the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation; additional contributions have been received from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, Amgen Switzerland AG and the Ernest Solvay Fund, which is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation.

DESY is one of the world’s leading particle accelerator centers. Researchers use the large‐scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety--ranging from the interaction of tiny elementary particles to the behavior of innovative nanomaterials, the vital processes that take place between biomolecules and the great mysteries of the universe. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds at its locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen are unique research tools. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association, and receives its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (90%) and the German federal states of Hamburg and Brandenburg (10%). 


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Last Updated: 7/10/19