Liverpool@CERN Virtual Particle School

During the summer holidays, I participated in the Liverpool@CERN Virtual Particle School with 24 other students from 12 state and independent schools. The week-long program, organised jointly by Sevenoaks School and the University of Liverpool Particle Physics department, was run by PhD students and post-docs involved in CERN experiments and consisted of lectures on research about the Standard Model and beyond, ranging from antimatter to dark matter, data analysis coding workshops, and a final group project. To be selected for the school, students had to write an essay on Particle Physics which was marked by the researchers themselves.

Most of my knowledge on particle physics previously came from books, so I valued the opportunity to speak to specialists directly. Even though the event was online, the environment felt very friendly and welcoming so it was easy to get involved in discussions and ask questions - especially because you could sense the speakers’ enthusiasm! 

For the final project, we had to design an experiment to detect a new phenomenon of our choice - my group created the ‘Finding NEMO’ experiment to determine Neutrino Mass Order with a detector that could distinguish between two different sources of neutrinos and extract different kinds of data from each one. The program did a great job of engaging us with the research and making the content accessible and stimulating, without requiring extensive mathematics or years of research experience. I enjoyed interpreting theory and relating it to measurable properties of particles, along with the fact that we were given lots of creative freedom - I was especially impressed with another group’s presentation on their sterile neutrino experiment which they chose to conduct on Pluto! 

Through detailed virtual tours of the Antimatter Factory, the ATLAS experiment control room, and exploration of the CERN site, the program not only deepened my technical understanding of particle physics, but also gave me a better insight into what it is really like to be involved in research at CERN. I am personally interested in becoming a physicist myself, so I feel that this program has advanced me closer to my goal, now that I have analysed data, designed an experiment with a team, and even understood some theory! I am sure that next year, when the program returns to an in-person format at CERN itself, it will be even more of a valuable and exciting experience.

 Katia Avanesov,  Upper Sixth

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