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Oklahoma State University

Physics department teaches high school students about a world project

Mon, April 04, 2016
Dr. Haley talks with two Deer Creek students about particle collisions.

High school students from Oklahoma City are among a select group learning particle physics from the world’s top scientific minds through a masterclass at Oklahoma State University.

OSU physics professors Dr. Joe Haley, Dr. Sasha Khanov and Dr. FleraRitzatdinova used their involvement with the A Toroidal LHC Apparatuse experiment, called ATLAS and currently underway in Switzerland, to launch the ATLAS Masterclass outreach program and host a series of events this spring. The students came to campus, where they were introduced to particle physics, the ATLAS experiment and data analysis. The conference ended with a video conference with Fermilab, a particle physics laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

“What’s interesting about the ATLAS experiment is that there are more than 3,000 scientists across the world working on this at the same time,” Haley said. “We’re searching for new particles and forces constantly, and it requires constant communication via video conferencing to all these particle labs to collaborate with one another. It’s neat to show this experience to the students.”

The ATLAS Masterclass targets high school students to introduce them to the work involved and understand particle physics. OSU is one of about 60 universities in the United States and 174 universities in the world that employ a masterclass for high school students. Tyler Gasdin, a Deer Creek High School senior, said his experience at OSU will not be forgotten.

“What really stood out to me was the open, friendly environment that was established by the professors,” he said. “They were not bothered by questions and misunderstandings and helped us to truly comprehend what they were telling us. I greatly look forward to seeing the professors as I begin my journey at OSU next year.”

In addition to working with the masterclass, Haley has worked with the ATLAS project for a few years. The ATLAS experiment is one of the two largest particle collision experiments in the world, and he’s set to become part of the hierarchy in April, overseeing a group of analysts that are searching for new particles that are not predicted by the current theory of particle physics. ATLAS is being conducted at The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN.

“I’m definitely excited about that,” he said. “I’m excited because I also work with Khanov and Ritzatdinova to advise the High-Energy (research) group at OSU. This will allow me to share my experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the group and help them use that as a resource in the future. It’s a great benefit for our students.”

ATLAS is funded by a grant from the Department of Energy and serves as a collaboration between thousands of particle physicists from around the world. For more information about the physics department, visit http://physics.okstate.edu. More information about the ATLAS Masterclass can be found at http://atlas.physicsmasterclasses.org/en/index.htm.

Story by Matt Cohlmia

PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ostatenews/albums/72157666375605281