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Masterclass 2018 — Particle physicist for a day


On Thursday, March 15, 2018 the 8th International Masterclass took place at FAIR and GSI. 20 high-school students were invited to become a scientist for a day and analyse data from the ALICE experiment at the LHC accelerator at CERN in Geneva. GSI has had a major part in the construction and the scientific programme of ALICE from the beginning.

The young persons were asked to evaluate and interpret data of the ALICE experiment. Under professional supervision of scientists they autonomously analyzed recent data recorded in proton-proton and lead collisions. In the lead collisions a so-called quark-gluon plasma is generated – a state of matter which existed in the universe shortly after the big bang. This plasma undergoes a phase transition back to normal matter in fractions of seconds. The particles produced in the process can give insight into the properties of the quark-gluon plasma.

In two introductory talks about quark-gluon plasma and the examination of heavy ion collisions at the ALICE experiment the pupils were informed about the analysis. Furthermore they visited the large-scale experiment HADES, one of the current experiments at the GSI accelerator facility that will also become a part of the future FAIR accelerator. Afterwards they started the data analysis.

The basic idea of the program is to allow the students to work in the same fashion as the scientists. This includes having a videoconference at the end of the day. In a conference connection with groups from the universities in Frankfurt, Münster, and Padua (Italy) as well as CERN they presented and discussed their results.

This year 215 universities and research institutes from 52 countries participate in the International Masterclasses. They are organized by the International Particle Physics Outreach Group (IPPOG). All events in Germany are held in cooperation with the "Netzwerk Teilchenwelt", a nationwide network committed to the communication of particle physics to youngsters and teachers. They aim to make particle physics accessible to a broader public. As of late, GSI as a location is also a part of “Netzwerk Teilchenwelt”.

ALICE is one of the four large international experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It is the experiment specifically designed to investigate collisions of heavy nuclei at high energies. Scientists of GSI and of German universities were involved in the development of new detectors and in the scientific program of ALICE from the beginning. The GSI computing center is an inherent part of the computing grid for data analysis of ALICE.

Further information:

Group picture
The 20 participants of the Masterclass 2018 analyzed original data from the ALICE experiment.
Photo: R. Averbeck, GSI