Masterclass 2019 — High-school students on a hunt for particles
In April 2019 the 9th International Masterclass took place at FAIR and GSI. 17 high-school students were invited to become scientists for a day and to analyze 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 program of ALICE from the beginning.
The young people were asked to analyze 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.
Two introductory lectures on the quark gluon plasma, held by Masterclass organizer Dr. Ralf Averbeck, and the investigation of heavy ion collisions at the ALICE experiment, held by Michael Habib, put the students in the mood for the analysis. Subsequently, 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 and Münster, as well as CERN they presented and discussed their results.
This year 225 universities and research institutes from 55 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", of which GSI is a member. The nationwide network committed to the communication of particle physics to youngsters and teachers aims to make particle physics accessible to a broader public.
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. (cp)