2012 Consolidated Grant Supplement : UCL

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Experimental particle physics studies extremely small sizes, or equivalently extremely high energies. We seek to understand the underlying nature of the physical universe in terms of fundamental forces and particles. This knowledge underpins our quest to answer some of the biggest questions in science, such as how our universe originated and evolved from the Big Bang.

Experiments capable of reaching these extremes of energy & size are very technically demanding. The challenges include devising precision detectors which can operate in hostile environments, particle accelerators which can collide beams at very high energies, super-sensitive detectors capable of identifying very rare decays, high-speed electronics which can read out millions of pieces of information per second & software which can analyse petabytes of data in a distributed fashion. Particle physics thereby stimulates a variety of important technological developments.

This is a supplementary award to our "consolidated grant", underpinning the base of highly skilled research & technical staff which allows UCL to lead projects at the very highest levels. It provides the support that allows the group to effectively train PhD students & young post-doctoral researchers. The science this grant will support includes:

- Understanding the mechanism that gives particles mass by searching for new fundamental particles such as the Higgs boson with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. In the event of such a discovery, measuring the properties of the Higgs boson will be critical. Cross checking with precision measurements from the Tevatron collider will allow a powerful consistency check of the standard model of particle physics.

- Understanding why we live in a universe that is dominated by matter with only a tiny anti-matter component, in contrast to the conditions immediately following the Big Bang. We will study in detail the properties of the neutrino, which is a stable, uncharged, almost massless particle released in radioactive beta decays. The neutrino is being studied with the MINOS experiment. UCL is also completing the construction of the SuperNEMO experiment, which will search for the incredibly rare process whereby two simultaneous beta-decays occur inside the nucleus. Examining such decays will yield fundamental insights into the nature of the neutrino.

- Searching for phenomena at extremely high energies, well beyond the reach of man-made accelerators like the LHC. We are searching for the interactions of ultra-high energy neutrinos in the Antarctic ice using the ANITA experiment & we are preparing for experiments that will search for the exceedingly rare process whereby a muon (a heavier version of the electron) spontaneously converts into an electron.

- Developing new accelerator and detector technologies for future experiments. We need to build higher energy colliders, and giant detectors able to detect neutrino beams fired over large distances, as well as 10-times larger underground detectors to continue the search for rare processes. These crucial science goals require the realisation of new detectors with unprecedented performance and which can be scaled-up effectively and affordably.

- Sharing the results of our work with other scientists and industry. Our accelerator and radiation measurement expertise can be applied to the fields of nuclear medicine and security. We also cooperate with instrument manufacturers in order to develop better products for our own research and for other scientific and industrial users.

Some of this work is funded on other grants but is underpinned by the technical expertise that is supported by this consolidated grant. Continuity & support for the technical base in the UCL High Energy Physics Group is vital to progress the science & the benefits that it brings.

Planned Impact

Particle physicists undertake basic research at the frontier of knowledge. Our audience consists not only of fellow physicists
but scientists and non-scientists alike who share a curiosity for the results of our research.

We know, for example from studies of university applications, that particle physics is one of the most frequently cited motivations for school pupils to study physics at A-level and beyond. Our research, and in particular the presentation of our research to public audiences, is therefore a crucial factor in encouraging young people to study the physical sciences at a time when the UK economy needs many more science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates. The UCL group reaches out to public audiences through highly effective work in schools and science fairs and also in national print and broadcast media.

Although the fruits of particle physics research do not (yet!) have any direct applications, the instruments required to perform experiments in high-energy physics have historically and continue to generate significant innovation that has wider impact. For example nuclear medicine relies on radiation detection technology originally developed for nuclear and particle physics experiments. A new branch of nuclear medicine is the use of hadron beams to deliver radiation doses with far greater precision and far less collatoral damage than conventional radiotherapy. The UCL particle physics group is involved in efforts to transfer expertise in laboratory based proton accelerators to help deliver better understood proton beams for such medical applications, with the
corresponding potential benefits to patients that this might bring.

Another impact of our research is in the security arena.We are developing novel radiation detectors that may be used to discover and monitor nuclear materials, as well as using cosmic rays to see inside hidden spaces.

UCL particle physicists are committed to disseminating the results of their research as widely and effectively as possible, ensuring that anyone with an interest in our work - be it professional interest or simply personal curiosity - has the chance to learn more about what we do.

Publications

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Abramowicz H (2014) Further studies of the photoproduction of isolated photons with a jet at HERA in Journal of High Energy Physics

 
Description See entry for ST/K001426/1, for which this supplementary award formed an essential contribution.
Exploitation Route See entry for ST/K001426/1, for which this supplementary award formed an essential contribution.
Sectors Education

 
Description See entry for ST/K001426/1, for which this supplementary award formed an essential contribution.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Event Horizon Cafe Scientifique 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact 30 people attended a Cafe Scientifique event organised by UCL undergraduate students where I talked about the search for Dark Matter in our Universe. Impact that has arisen since includes requests for more information on how to conduct further studies or apply for PhD and postgraduate positions in the field of Dark Matter and particle physics in general.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/197495787252785/
 
Description Article in Cosmos magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Featured in a Cosmos Magazine article about the search for Dark Matter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://cosmosmagazine.com/physical-sciences/ghost-traps-hunt-dark-matter
 
Description BBC Today programme feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Radio feature discussing UK particle physics and involvement in 'Beyond Standard Model' experiments including Dark Matter searches.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03kpnjl
 
Description Forbes magazine article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 5000 views of this article discussing Dark Matter experiments with UK involvement, where I discuss the implications of new results. This article led to changes in opinion of the readers as documented by the comments on the website, and further enquiries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridaineparnell/2013/11/07/why-the-lux-results-matter-to-dark-matter-and...
 
Description IOP Physics World article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article highlighting the selection of the next generation of experiments in the search for Dark Matter, including LZ.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2014/jul/15/dark-matter-searches-get-us-government-approval
 
Description IOP Physics World article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in Physics World magazine about underground science including Dark Matter searches. This article highlighted activities at the UK's Boulby Underground Laboratory.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/indepth/2015/may/07/subterranean-science
 
Description Light and Dark TV series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a major BBC production broadcast on TV in two-parts, hosted by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili. It featured a section on Dark Matter where I discussed underground experimental techniques.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03jrxhv
 
Description Naked Scientists Radio and Podcast feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Radio and Podcast feature by the Naked Scientists discussing Dark Matter searches. This feature led to several further media enquiries and questions from the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/podcasts/naked-scientists/show/20150602/
 
Description New Scientist Public Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 270 members of the general public attended a Particle Physics Experts Masterclass organised by New Scientist. I was one of the 5 experts, presenting Dark Matter including the LZ experiment, and I was a member of the panel for a Q&A session. There was significant interest during the ticketed event (£150 per person), and outcomes that have arisen since include contact from schools and students regarding Dark Matter for their school projects, and contact from the media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/instant-expert-mysteries-of-particle-physics-tickets-19713709235?aff=n...
 
Description Public Lecture at Second Home 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Approximately 70 people that work at or operate from Second Home, London, attended a talk about Dark Matter that focused on technologies. Second Home houses numerous technology firms and businesses and this talk led to several questions about potential socioeconomic impact of particle physics and Dark Matter experiments, and potential areas for collaborative research and spin-offs. It has also led to arrangement of a trip to Boulby Underground Laboratory in 2016, where I will host 10 artists from across the UK on an underground tour of the science facility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/1498288067129210/
 
Description Radio 5 Live feature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dark Matter feature on Radio 5 live, highlighting UK research. This feature led to enquiries from the general public and other media outlets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b043wvt9
 
Description Radio feature on Newsdrive 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview on BBC Newsdrive discussing UK involvement in international Dark Matter search experiments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zdylq
 
Description School Visit (Newham Collegiate College, London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Particle physics seminar focussing on searched for beyond the standard model physics, particularly for dark matter signatures. Approximately 40 students attended, and there was considerable interest afterwards with questions, discussion, and follow up emails to me.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017