Particle accelerator scientists meet in Buffalo

The QCD@LHC conference hosted by UB physicists opened Monday morning on UB’s downtown campus in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building. Credit: Charlotte Hsu

Release Date: July 16, 2019

“The UB physics department has one of the largest research groups with expertise in quantum chromodynamics in the U.S. ”
Ciaran Williams, assistant professor of physics
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Researchers working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the world’s most powerful particle accelerator — are in Buffalo this week to exchange ideas and share the latest developments in their field.

The scientists — about 100 of them from around the globe — are here for a workshop hosted by University at Buffalo physicists. The event, taking place on UB’s downtown campus in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building, focuses on quantum chromodynamics (QCD).

QCD is the theory that describes the strong nuclear force, one of four fundamental forces in nature that govern the behavior of matter and energy. The study of QCD contributes to our understanding of many phenomena in physics, ranging from the beginnings of the universe to the Higgs boson, a particle whose discovery in 2012 made headlines worldwide.

A history of high-energy physics research at UB

The weeklong workshop, titled “QCD@LHC,” is the 10th edition of the event, which has been held in different locations around the world.

It further raises the profile of UB’s physics department, which has long been involved in research at the LHC. The conference’s organizers — UB physics faculty members Ia Iashvili, Avto Kharchilava, Salvatore Rappoccio, Ciaran Williams and Doreen Wackeroth, all PhDs — are all working in this field.

“The UB physics department has one of the largest research groups with expertise in quantum chromodynamics in the U.S.,” said Williams, UB assistant professor of physics.

“The conference helps to raise the profile of the group even further, and allows our students to attend an international conference and establish a network of contacts at an early stage in their careers as scientists,” said Rappoccio, UB associate professor of physics.

The LHC, located in Europe and operated by CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), smashes beams of protons and other particles into one another at near-light speeds, generating data that illuminate the fundamental laws of nature.

This branch of science is known as high-energy physics, and UB physicists working in this area contributed to the discovery of the Higgs boson. They have also helped to plan, build and analyze results from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector, one of two detectors used to observe particle collisions at the LHC.

UB Chair of Physics Sambandamurthy Ganapathy, PhD, noted UB’s strength in high-energy physics as he welcomed conference attendees on Monday morning. His brief remarks also highlighted some recent department achievements: nine National Science Foundation CAREER award winners among faculty members, and several undergraduate and graduate students who have earned coveted national scholarships or fellowships in science.

A chance to hear and share the latest research

Before the first presentations on Monday, scientists gathered on the second-floor atrium of the Jacobs School building to enjoy coffee, a light breakfast and conversation.

Those present included Deepak Kar, PhD, associate professor of physics at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa; Paolo Gunnellini, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg in Germany; and Svenja Pflitsch, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY), a national research center in Germany.

All three saw the workshop as a valuable opportunity to hear in person from colleagues working on problems in QCD.

“You get to talk to people, and they tell you stuff they might not tell you on Skype or on email — things that they’re starting to work on or recent results,” Kar said.

“When you talk to someone at a conference, they go into many more details than you see on a Powerpoint,” Pflitsch said.

“It’s a great way to start some collaborations,” Gunnellini said.

A few minutes later, conference participants filed into a large lecture hall for the first of dozens of presentations that they would hear throughout the week.

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Charlotte Hsu
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