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Image: Daniel Dominguez/CERN, Particles of the Standard Model of particle physics
High-Energy Physics (HEP), also known as particle physics, is a branch of physics which studies the most fundamental laws of our Universe in order to address unanswered questions of nature.
Particle physics was born at the dawn of the 20th century through a number of paradigm-shifting discoveries. First, the phenomenon of radioactivity was uncovered by Henri Becquerel and Pierre and Marie Curie. Soon after, the first subatomic particles, electrons and protons, were discovered by the teams of Thompson and Rutherford, respectively.
Later, the relativistic nature of highly energetic particles was reconciled with Quantum Mechanics by Dirac and his backwards-in-time travelling electrons in the late 20s.
Finally, an immensely powerful theoretical framework, which describes the behaviour of the quanta that form the subatomic world with an astonishing precision, was developed by the theoretical minds of the 50s, 60s and 70s, such as Yang, Mills, Glashow, t’Hooft, Salam, Weinberg and Higgs       . This theoretical framework, a Quantum Field Theory (QFT) called the Standard Model (SM), is not only the most successful theory in physics, but, arguably, in all of science.
|RTU Researcher, Dr. Viesturs Veckalns, explaining the processes in a particle accelerator experiment during CERN Science Week in Latvia, 22.–26.05.2017. Photo: Riga Technical University
Riga Technical University has been a part of this exciting field of science since 2015, having engaged in the Top, t, quark physics programme at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of the four major HEP experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.
Our scientific activities in this experiment are made possible thanks to the support by the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science and RTU, as well such science funding programmes as State Research Programme and the Fundamental and Applied Research Programme.
RTU is represented at CMS by a growing group of researchers. Our researchers work on exploring the properties of the aforementioned t quark, the most massive fundamental particle in the SM. Due to its incredible mass, the reason for which in and of itself remains a mystery, t is the only quark that decays before it has had an opportunity to form bound states via the nuclear strong force. Instead, the t quark decays through the weak interaction process into a down type-quark, most often Beauty, b, and a W boson, the carrier of the nuclear weak force. An analysis led by our group through the work of Dr. Veckalns, studies such decays, where the W boson subsequently decays into two light quarks, which are connected through what is known as the colour charge. Such studies are incredibly important to further our understanding of processes that lead to the condensation of these fundamental particles into objects that form the macroscopic world around us.
RTU is also involved in the MIP Timing Detector (MTD) project, where our researcher, Dr. Kārlis Dreimanis, is responsible for the development of the detector construction database. In addition to that, our group is seeking to contribute to the quality assurance testing procedures during the construction of the detector. This novel sub-detector will be added into the CMS experiment for Run 4 of the LHC. It will enable the experiment to cope with the huge increase in luminosity that the High-Luminosity upgrade of the LHC will bring in 2023/24. The MTD will provide the CMS experiment with the timing information of when charged particles have traversed it at a pico-second level, a time scale on the order of one million times shorter than a blink of an eye.
Although the SM is the most successful theory in science, we know it to be incomplete. For example, the SM does not describe the fourth fundamental force – gravity. Moreover, the theoretical framework of SM provides the description of only around 5% of our Universe. The nature and the origins of dark matter and dark energy, which are thought to form nearly 95% of the energy content of the Universe, are still shrouded in mystery. Because of this, HEP is not only one of the most modern and exciting fields of physics right now, but still holds an enormous potential for intriguing discoveries to be made!
If you are excited about the prospect of studying the most fundamental aspects of our Universe at any capacity, be sure to keep an eye out for various opportunities available at CERN and RTU. If you believe that some of these opportunities are for you, but are unsure as to how to proceed, you can contact us via email for more information.