BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Particle physicists don't ordinarily have a
reputation as the most effusive bunch in the world but University
at Buffalo physicists, along with their colleagues all over the
planet, are positively exuberant about the Sept. 10 debut of the
Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear
Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, the most powerful particle
physics accelerator ever built.
On Sept. 10, LHC's two particle beams will, for the first time,
make a complete circle in the 27 kilometer-long (about 17 miles)
underground tunnel that spans France and Switzerland.
Data resulting from collisions of these beams at specific points
in the tunnel are expected to change what physicists know and
understand about everything from the Big Bang and black holes to
the ever-elusive Higgs boson and the most fundamental building
blocks of matter.
Several UB physicists were directly involved in the planning and
design of experiments at the LHC while others eagerly anticipate
how the results will influence their research.
But all have been struck by the sweeping scale of this
experiment and its truly global nature, a two-decade collaboration
anticipated all over the globe and made possible by the work of
8,000 scientists and students from nearly 60 nations on six
"The startup of the LHC demonstrates that there is no east and
no west, no us and no them, just one humanity coming together to
build and operate the largest scientific instrument ever to explore
the nature of matter and the origin of the cosmos," said Richard
Gonsalves, Ph.D., UB physics professor and former chair of the
"To be finally living in the LHC era in anticipation of its
scientific discoveries is one of the most exciting moments in my
career as a physicist," said Doreen Wackeroth, Ph.D., associate
professor of physics at UB.
"This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a
high-energy physicist and we are fortunate to
witness it, especially since we have been able to make our
modest contributions," said Avto Kharchilava, Ph.D., assistant
professor of physics at UB and a co-leader of an international
group that planned and built one of the LHC's four detectors, the
Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS).
Last semester, Kharchilava and UB assistant professor of
physics, Ia Iashvili, Ph.D., were stationed at the U.S. Department
of Energy's Fermilab in Chicago, an LHC partner, working with
hundreds of other scientists to develop extremely precise software
simulations to predict what will happen when the collider
Michael Srang, Ph.D., a UB post-doctoral fellow, and Kenneth
Smith, a UB graduate student in the Department of Physics, are
continuing that work at Fermilab while Ashish Kumar, Ph.D., a UB
post-doctoral fellow, is stationed at CERN.
Kharchilava and other UB scientists plan to awaken at 3 o'clock
the morning of Sept. 10 in order to catch the startup and the
beginning of the daylong broadcast from CERN. From 9 a.m. to noon,
the UB Department of Physics will broadcast streaming video of the
LHC startup in the third floor foyer of Fronczak Hall on the UB
North (Amherst) Campus.
"On Sept. 10, these beams, which are moving close to the speed
of light, have to be kept in perfect orbit by very large
superconducting magnets for 27 kilometers," explained Iashvili.
"Once that is accomplished, the final stage is to try to collide
them, and out of these collisions, we expect to see brand new
The expected "star" of this grand experiment is the Higgs boson,
the long-predicted but never seen particle, which should finally
explain why particles have mass, according to the Standard Model,
the prevailing model of physics.
And the UB scientists are quick to add, there is value in these
experiments for the non-physicists among us, too.
Observed Dejan Stojkovic, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics
at UB: "This is progress, this is how you advance society.
Scientists deal with fundamental questions. The answers to these
questions don't pay off immediately. But science pulls the whole
society forward. The LHC required the best engineers to build it
and the best scientists to plan and use it. When scientists give
talks and public lectures, that helps to educate teachers in high
schools, and they, in turn, educate their students. Eventually, all
levels will benefit."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.