A Particle-y Good Week – Thank you and Farewell Seth Zenz

This week at Real Scientists, we got the serious lowdown on everything you ever wanted to know about all things CERN and LHC. Tweeting from a conference in Boston on jet physics (which is nothing to do with planes), Seth provided us with a veritable jet of information for this past week. Despite some serious jet (the plane kind) lag, Seth was answering ALL of the questions we had about the Large Hadron Collider, the Higgs boson and particle physics. There were also some fascinating insights into dark matter, dark energy, supersymmetry, gravity… so generally just all the incredible physics to blow your tiny mind to sub-atomic particle-sized pieces.


Seth rocking a CERN Google Hangout

In addition to particle physics were some discussions on topics including what constitutes a scientific question, and the funding of blue sky or fundamental research as opposed to the more applicable or industrially relevant sciences. The storify of Seth’s week will be available shortly is here. Keep up with Seth and his explorations in physics by following him @SethZenz.

CERN comes to Real Scientists – Dr Seth Zenz

The search for the particles and forces responsible for the modern universe is an ongoing one, and qne of the most venerable and prestigious organisations dedicated to accomplishing this task is CERN.  CERN was founded in 1954 as the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and now houses multiple particle accelerators, as well as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), possibly one of the most advanced instruments humans have ever built.  As we all know, two major experiments run thy the LHC provided evidence for the existence of the elusive Higgs Boson in 2012, in one of the most exciting scientific announcements in recent times.



So we are absolutely delighted to welcome Dr Seth Zenz (@sethzenz),  Dicke Fellow in the Princeton Physics Department, to Real Scientists. An American abroad, Seth works on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.  We first met Seth when he hosted curator Marga Gual Soler when she visited the LHC last year while hosting Real Scientists

Seth will be at a new techniques in physics conference while he tweets for us.  For more background on the CMS experiment and his science, here’s Seth in his own words:

The LHC has now started to answer one of the great outstanding problems in particle physics: what is the origin of the masses of the W and Z bosons and the tremendous differences between the electromagnetic and weak forces? The Standard Model (SM) of particle physics explains this via the Higgs Mechanism, which predicts a particle called the Higgs Boson. In 2012, the CMS experiment observed a particle, with a mass of about 125 GeV/c2, that decays to pairs of photons or Z bosons at approximately the rate predicted. But is it really the SM Higgs Boson?

To answer this question, Seth is major contributor to the CMS search for Higgs decays into pairs of bottom quarks, focusing on Higgs production in association with a W boson.  The latest results of this search, the most sensitive yet, have come tantalizingly close to providing evidence for this decay, but a definitive discovery will require new techniques and new data.  To this end, he currently focuses on the development of the search in the presence of very high collision rates, working toward planned upgrades of the LHC and CMS.  These studies make heavy use of the internal structure of hadronic jets, for example by optimizing the rejection of additional collisions, identifying displaced decay vertices of bottom-containing particles, and potentially using the substructure of merged jets when the Higgs has very high momentum.

Precision tracking of charged particles is critical to understanding these jet properties within the Higgs analysis. Seth works on the operation and maintenance of the CMS Pixel Detector, a high-precision silicon tracking device at the core of CMS, as well as measurements and modeling of the radiation damage that limits the Pixels’ longevity in the intense LHC environment. He brings to bear his Ph.D. thesis results on jet properties measured with charged particle tracks and graduate work at UC Berkeley on the initial testing, calibration, and operation of the ATLAS experiment Pixel Detector.

Seth engages with the public about his work, and the broader enterprise of experimental particle physics through the international Quantum Diaries blog; as a host, organizer, and contributor to CERN’s Google+ Hangouts; and on Twitter.

Please welcome Dr Seth Zenz to Real Scientists!