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From Rose-Hulman to CERN
October 20, 2011
Physics & Optics Student Studies at World's Particle
| From Left: Student Andrew Bower, physicist
Michio Kaku, astronomer Richard Ditteon.
Top world scientists are still trying to figure out how the CERN
supercollider managed to document neutrinos, tiny ethereal
particles, traveling faster than the speed of light. News of the
discovery at Europe's CERN supercollider shocked the science world,
since a faster-than-light particle would dispute Albert Einstein's
special theory of relativity. "We would have to throw out all the
Physics textbooks," said Physics & Optical Engineering
professor Azad Siahmakoun.
According to Siahmakoun, the Physics faculty had discussed
CERN's faster-than-light results over dinner with guest lecturer
and Nobel Laureate in Physics Michio Kaku.
But when news of the discovery came out, Rose-Hulman Institute
of Technology student Andrew Bower was not surprised. The
Rose-Hulman senior, a Physics and Optical Engineering student, had
spent the summer at CERN -- one of a select few American college
students to participate in the Research Experiences for
Undergraduates (REU) program at the premier particle-physics
This same famed Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located near
Geneva, Switzerland, draws researchers from all over the world.
"It's a big collaboration of physicists working at the frontier
of physics," Bower explains. He was one of the few
undergraduate students participating in the University of
Michigan's research project.
On this project, Bower joined students and scientists in
conducting experiments and collecting data in the quest to find the
elusive Higgs Boson particle, the theoretical particle that is
believed to give all matter in the universe mass. He
says that the REU student scientists analyze the large amounts of
data generated, each doing his or her part to forward the
Working on the project was a dream come true for Bower, who has
been fascinated with the supercollider since first reading about it
as a child.
"I was just so excited the whole time. I just had this big
smile on my face," he said.
However, 12 weeks at the world's largest atom smasher did more
than expand Bower's scientific horizons. He says that the
program also provided a valuable cultural experience. Though
his research group consisted mainly of graduate students from the
University of Milan, Bower says he enjoyed connecting with
science-minded people from all over the world.
"What surprised me was the way the theorists worked with the
experimentalists," Bower recalls. "The LHC itself is the perfect
example. When they planned it, people said it couldn't be
done . . . and now they're doing it."