Daniel Wilbern, a Northern Michigan University physics student from Cary, Ill., completed a 10-week undergraduate research experience at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont in advance of the fall semester. The department he worked in focused on high-energy physics analysis for the ATLAS experiment at CERN, European Organization for Nuclear Research, whose particle physics lab is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
ATLAS detects particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s highest energy collider. Physicists working with the LHC are investigating the “energy frontier” in order to observe new physics phenomena not described by the Standard Model, the current most widely accepted theory of particle physics. One of these “beyond the Standard Model” phenomena being investigated is a new hypothetical particle called the W', a very short-lived particle that would quickly decay into two more fundamental particles, usually a top quark and a bottom quark. At ATLAS, a high energy particle detector at the LHC, physicists are searching through data collected by the detector for evidence of these rare W' particles.
At Argonne, Wilbern worked with Jeremy Love in the high-energy physics division. Within the department is the Argonne ATLAS Analysis Support Center.
“It’s an interesting place to be to not only meet other high-energy researchers and students, but also scientists from other fields,” Wilbern said. "It was a good experience for me to have as I enter graduate school because it is closely related to what I might be doing in school. It was also beneficial to meet people in the field I want to work in and hear from them personally about their experiences. People are very passionate about research and it’s been a very helpful thing for me considering what I want to do after college, which is probably to stay in high-energy physics."
Wilbern said the current theory of particle physics is incomplete because there are still phenomena that it doesn’t describe or justify. New theories will increase the understanding of particle physics and lead to a more complete description of the laws of physics.