BUFFALO, N.Y. — University at Buffalo physicists who took
part in a decades-long search for the Higgs boson, an important
subatomic particle, were thrilled by the announcement today of a
Higgs-related Nobel Prize in Physics.
The Higgs particle helps explain why objects have mass,
illuminating our understanding of the universe, and the Nobel award
to two physicists who made predictions pointing to the
particle's existence in 1964: Peter Higgs, for whom the boson is
named, and François Englert, who worked on the Higgs problem
with the late theorist Robert Brout.
But the timing of the prize hints at the importance of research
done by other scientists in the wake of Englert, Brout and Higgs'
predictions. The Nobel recognition comes a year after scientists
working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
confirmed that they had finally observed a particle matching the
UB researchers were part of the team at CERN that discovered the
Higgs. The massive international collaboration included thousands
of investigators across the world, uniting them in a quest to
better understand the Higgs particle and the fundamental physics of
About the hunt for the Higgs boson:
The search, considered one of modern science’s greatest
endeavors, came to a conclusion in July 2012, when scientists
announced that they had observed a particle with properties
consistent with the long-elusive Higgs.
Finding the Higgs was a monumental achievement because it
validated the Standard Model of particle physics, which scientists
use to describe how particles and forces interact with one another
— to describe, in short, how the world around us works. At
the time of its discovery, the Higgs boson was the only particle in
the Standard Model that researchers had yet to observe.
UB physicists who participated in the search, and who can
comment on the Nobel win, include:
Ia Iashvili, PhD, associate professor of physics
Iashvili helped plan and build the CMS detector of the Large
Hadron Collider, the strongest particle accelerator in the world.
She is among researchers worldwide who participated in CMS
experiments to search for the Higgs boson. Iashvili is one of two
CMS scientists in charge of delivering the first energy scale
calibration for the CMS, a process that is critical to the CMS
project’s ability to identify the Higgs boson and other
"The discovery of the Higgs boson and the Nobel prize marks the
dawn of the new era in particle physics,” she says.
Avto Kharchilava, PhD, associate professor of physics
Kharchilava helped plan and build the Compact Muon Solenoid
(CMS) detector of the Large Hadron Collider, the strongest particle
accelerator in the world. The LHC, located at the European
Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), smashes protons together
at 99.999999 percent of the speed of light, and Kharchilava and
thousands of colleagues around the world used the machine to
observe the Higgs boson.
He is a member of the Higgs Publication Committee Board that
oversees the final steps the CMS collaboration must undertake
before results on Higgs particle searchers are made public. He is
also a member of the DZero experiment at Fermilab, near Chicago,
where he searched for Higgs boson(s) in recent years and studies
various aspects of the Standard Model of particle physics.
“So, what's next?" he says. It's a question he often asks
himself — and one that is especially relevant these days
after the discovery of the Higgs boson, often regarded as the most
exciting accomplishment that physicists have achieved in
“Well, we are lucky to have in operation a
scientific, technological and engineering marvel such as the Large
Hadron Collider at CERN," he said "We, the particle physics
community worldwide, have a sound and cutting-edge research program
for many years to come. We have clear goals, such as making
precision measurement of properties of the newly discovered
particle and determining whether they are consistent with the
Standard Model expectations, and searching for new phenomena, dark
matter, extra dimensions, etc. We are fortunate to be part of this
endeavor into frontiers of science, technology, and possibly
witness even more fundamental discoveries."
Salvatore Rappoccio, PhD, assistant professor of
Rappoccio, who joined UB in August 2012 and the CMS experiment
in 2007, co-leads a group of dozens of scientists within CMS,
searching for the next big discovery in particle physics beyond the
"The Higgs boson discovery is the capstone of over 40 years of
scientific achievement in collider physics,” he says.
“It is a truly remarkable testament to the wondrous things we
can accomplish together with a sustained international commitment
to basic scientific research.
“However, it leaves open many questions about nature. Why,
for instance, is the energy scale of the Higgs interaction so much
different than the energy scale of gravitational interactions? What
is dark matter, and does it have a relation to the Higgs? Are there
other particles that we haven't observed yet? Why is there so much
more matter in the universe than antimatter?
“Collider physics now turns to the next stage in its quest
to understand the fundamental interactions of nature, and explore
answers to these questions. We're hoping this is not the last great
discovery from the Large Hadron Collider physics program, but only
Besides Rappoccio, Iashvili and Kharchilava, many other UB
physicists, including faculty members and students, have been
involved in many aspects of the Large Hadron Collider experiments,
from helping to run the CMS detector to predicting how particles
should look when they appear.