Issue 3, Volume 1
March 2008

Cal Physics Faculty Play Important Role at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

The ATLAS experiment is scheduled to begin collecting data at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva Switzerland in second half of this year. ATLAS will probe the most basic interactions of nature and will address some of the most important particle physics questions of our time: What is the physics that causes matter to have mass? Are there more than four space-time dimensions? What is the origin of Dark Matter? Members of the Berkeley Physics Department and the LBNL Physics Division played a central role in the design and construction of the ATLAS pixel detector. With over 80 million channels of high-speed electronic readout, the pixel system will provide precision measurements of the trajectory of charged particles produced in high energy proton-proton collisions. This state-of-the-art detector was recently installed in the ATLAS collision hall, with Berkeley taking major responsibilities for the installation, commissioning and preparation for data-taking. We currently have 5 postdoctoral scholars, 3 grad students and a number of senior physicists and engineers living near CERN. Associate Professor Beate Heinemann (who holds a joint appointment with LBNL) is spending half her time there and Professor Marjorie Shapiro will spend her sabbatical at CERN next year. While no one knows what we will find at the LHC, the possibilities are mind-boggling: the elusive Higgs boson, supersymmetric particles, dark matter, or even mini-black holes. Whether or not any of those phenomena will be found will have dramatic consequences for the understanding of the physics of the most fundamental building blocks of matter and the forces that act between them.

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