College of Science and Mathematics

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Physics Department Receives $225K Grant to Fund Student Research

Exterior view of the Large Hadron Collider

A Cal Poly physics professor has received a three-year, $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that will send student researchers to the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

During the academic year, students at Cal Poly will investigate how to optimize the performance and reliability of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research — better known by its acronym CERN. They will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland, in the summer to present their work to leading scientists in the field of particle physics.

“I’m very excited that the students will get the opportunity to go to CERN,” said Themis Mastoridis, a physics professor and leader of the research project. “This will be a great and unique experience for our physics majors.”

Themis Mastoridis sitting in a chair at CERN
Themis Mastoridis

There will also be plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning during the students’ two-week stint at CERN. They will work on and run simulations, measure various components of the collider, validate assumptions they’ve made during their year of on-campus research, and collaborate with top physicists from around the world.

CERN’s collider is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. The collider aided in the discovery of the Higgs boson, an elementary particle whose existence physicists had hypothesized but couldn’t prove for decades. Students selected for this program will get to work on the development of essential upgrades to the collider.

“This really epitomizes Learn by Doing,” said Mastoridis, who spent two years working at CERN before arriving at Cal Poly. “Our students will develop skills that will be very helpful for a job in the industry or for a graduate career.” 

Posted Oct. 16, 2015

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