Dec 03 2019

Our Department of Physics colleagues have been collaborating with CERN in Switzerland for a number of years, trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe. CERN's origins began in the 1940s where a small number of visionary scientists in Europe and North America identified the need for Europe to have a world-class physics research facility. Its main mission is to uncover what the universe is made of and how it works. This is done by providing a unique range of particle accelerator facilities to researchers to advance the boundaries of human knowledge.

Today, CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. The 27km accelerator sits in a tunnel 100 metres underground on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. The accelerator complex is a succession of machines with increasingly higher energies. Each machine accelerates a beam of particles to a given energy before injecting the beam into the next machine in the chain. This next machine brings the beam to an even higher energy and so on. The LHC is the last element of this chain, in which the beams reach their highest energies.


As the LHC was shut down in 2018 for upgrade work, our PR and Media Manager, Samantha Daynes, was able to go over and check out the exciting work that our colleagues and PhD students are doing.

Dr Francesca Pastore, Department of Physics, has been based at CERN for more than 10 years, following the evolutions of experiments very closely. She is currently working on one of the four major experiments at CERN - ATLAS. Whilst the LHC shutdown is in place, Francesca is working on two projects for the upgrade, both concerning the ATLAS trigger, the system that controls how much data can be taken and stored, selecting only the data which represent the most interest to scientists.

Sam Hill, Department of Physics, is out at CERN for a year and works on the Darkside20k (DS20k) Dark Matter experiment, which is aimed to detect dark matter directly.

The experiment is scheduled to be built in the next few years and Sam is currently at CERN working on a prototype, which aims to study the key principles that DS20k will offer us, but on a smaller scale. Sam’s work is to assist with the construction, maintenance and running of the prototype, help troubleshoot any problems and to take data required by the various groups in the collaboration. He also works on the initial analysis of this data, trying to determine whether it is useful and to make sure the detector is working correctly. Sam’s main focus is on the photo-sensors, which is the physical system that makes measurements and the data acquisition and what is done with this data. This prototype will serve as the first step towards the final experiment and a test-bed for a second prototype, which will be a scaled down version of the final detector.

Daniel Harryman, Department of Physics is working on a project to develop technology to measure the position of the particle beam while it's in the accelerator. Despite these already existing, Daniel is looking to develop a way that works differently and therefore will give even more insight. Daniel also works on the CLIC (Compact Linear Collider) Test Facility accelerator for a few weeks a year, where he helps to test new beam position monitors to see what happens when they change the beam’s positions.