The University of Nebraska-Lincoln received a five-year, $ 51 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will advance cutting-edge work in subatomic physics at CERN‘s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator located near Geneva, Switzerland.
The grant, one of the largest in the history of the university, will allow 1,200 we physicists from 51 institutions to maximize the potential of the Compact Muon Solenoid detector, a collider instrument used to study what happens when high-energy particles collide. The funding will support the we CMS Program of operations, NSF-financed party which Nebraska will now lead until 2026. The program, also funded by the we Department of Energy, maintains the operation of components supplied and developed by the United States of CMS detector, oversees its software and IT infrastructure and plans future upgrades.
The operating program is essential to maintaining and improving the CMS detector. The instrument works like a giant high-speed camera in the LHC, by capturing “photographs” of particle collisions that help scientists unravel the mysteries of the origins and makeup of the universe and glean insight into the laws of nature. The detector was an integral part of the 2012 discovery of the much sought-after Higgs boson particle and is expected to spur new discoveries in particle physics.
As the lead of the operations program, Nebraska is responsible for distributing funds to 19 partner institutions, all of which are leaders in the field of particle physics. They include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Princeton, and Cornell.
Maintain the CMS The detector – which weighs 14,000 tonnes and has two end caps each the size of a five-story building – is a significant undertaking and the backbone of research conducted at CERN.
“No one can do the research unless we do the operation and maintenance,” said Ken Bloom, professor of physics and the project’s principal investigator. “It allows research on this campus and in the 50 other CMS universities in the we All international collaboration needs these activities in the we to succeed.”
Bloom’s deep experience in CMS operations and management have been essential to NSF financing in Nebraska. For nearly a decade, he led the team that runs the seven we Level 2 computing centers for CMS detector, one of which is housed at the university’s Holland Computing Center. Collectively, these sites process, store, transfer and analyze the millions of gigabytes of data produced by the CMS every year.
He was also responsible for software and IT for the operating program from 2015 to 2019, managing an annual budget of $ 16 million. In January, he was chosen as deputy director of the program, helping to administer a $ 35 million budget that funds at least 45 institutions. This appointment triggered the change of NSF Funding in Nebraska from Princeton University, where it has been hosted for the past decade.
“This grant is the cornerstone of Ken’s long-term commitment to lead CMS operations nationally and globally, ”said Bob Wilhelm, vice-chancellor responsible for research and economic development. “Its commitment to maximize the potential of the instrument and to strengthen its IT infrastructure, and the role that our university will play in the management CMS operations, paves the way for scientists in Nebraska and around the world to continue to make groundbreaking discoveries in physics. “
The university takes over at a critical time for the Large Hadron Collider. The instrument is about to start its third data collection in 2022, which is expected to double the size of the current CMS proton collision data set. Additionally, a major accelerator upgrade is underway, which will increase its brightness by a factor of 10. The Improved Collider, which will be called High-Luminosity LHC, is expected to be in place for the launch of Round 4 in 2027 and will dramatically increase the number of collisions physicists can study.
With the expected data boom resulting from these two events, Bloom said it was critical to dedicate the lion’s share of NSF funds to improve IT operations that support data analysis. The majority of funds remaining on the Nebraska campus will support improvements to Holland Center’s software, computing power, and staff.
Instruments updated on CERN will fuel additional research focused on the Higgs boson, the elementary particle believed to give mass to other particles. After finally discovering the so-called “God particle” in 2012 after a hunt for more than 50 years, physicists are now confirming its role in the Standard Model of particle physics and using it to research other types of hidden particles. The upgrade LHC will double the supply of Higgs bosons available for study and provide more accurate measurements of the particle.
The collider also paves the way for further exploration of dark matter, an invisible substance believed to make up about 25% of the universe. Scientists know it exists on the basis of gravitational attractions exhibited by distant stars and galaxies, but they don’t know what types of particles make it up.
They will also continue their studies on unknown aspects of the universe: new particles, interactions and principles of physics.
In addition to Bloom, Nebraska physicists Dan Claes, Frank Golf, and Ilya Kravchenko are conducting research alongside their national and international counterparts at CERN.
“In Nebraska, our research in physics has been a strength for decades, and this NSF The grant recognizes this, as well as our demonstrated ability to demonstrate leadership on the international stage, ”said Chancellor Ronnie Green. “We seize a new opportunity to collaborate with colleagues around the world under the leadership of Dr Ken Bloom to advance these great challenges in physics. “
The CMS The operations program offers hundreds of postdoctoral fellows and students the opportunity to participate in particle physics research using the world’s most advanced instruments. It also makes it possible to finance QuarkNet, a long-standing program that pairs high school teachers with particle physics scientists to bring innovative research into classrooms.
For Bloom, who has spent much of his career researching top quark physics, weak particle interactions, and the Higgs boson, this project is an opportunity to give back to a research community of which he is a part. for over 30 years. He sees it as an act of community service and a chance to pass the baton on to the promising physicists who will lead the next generation of discoveries.
“I am always looking for ways to improve the lives of people in this area,” he said. “How can we do things that will impact a lot of people and help them do their science? Ultimately that’s what the operations program is. If I can do things that will help other people pursue their science ideas, then that is a useful contribution.