ALICE Masterclass in virtual format

25.03.2021

Also in this year GSI and FAIR participated in the International Masterclasses for particle physics. Within the framework of an ALICE Masterclass, 30 students were able to get an insight into the daily work and data analysis in particle physics. ALICE is one of the four large experiments at the accelerator LHC located at the European research center CERN in Geneva. ALICE investigates in particular collisions of nuclei of heavy lead atoms. Due to the Corona pandemic, the event was held in a virtual format. It was conducted in cooperation with the German ALICE university sites in Frankfurt and Münster as well as the AG MINT-Zentrum at the Schuldorf Bergstraße.

Responsible for the organization of the ALICE Masterclasses at GSI/FAIR is Dr. Ralf Averbeck from the research department "ALICE". "GSI has been involved in the development of new detector instruments for ALICE and in the scientific program from the very beginning. The GSI computing center is an integral part of the computing network for data analysis of the ALICE experiment. An ALICE International Masterclass, which we are now conducting for the tenth time, therefore fits well into the program," explains the physicist. "In our Masterclass, the students have the opportunity to become researchers themselves and analyze real experimental data from ALICE, which was recorded in collisions of lead nuclei. Since the analysis takes place on the computer anyway, we could convert the usual in-person activity into a virtual format and thus continue it during the pandemic."

When lead atomic nuclei collide with unimaginable energy in the LHC collider, conditions like those prevailing in the first moments of the universe are created. During the collisions, a so-called quark-gluon plasma is formed for a very short time — a state of matter that existed in the universe shortly after the Big Bang. This plasma transforms back into normal matter within fractions of a second. The particles produced in the process provide information about the properties of the quark-gluon plasma. Thus, the measurements can look into the birth of the cosmos and reveal information about the basic building blocks of matter and their interactions.

In addition to data analysis on two consecutive afternoons, the program also included introductory lectures on particle physics and computer-based data analysis as well as a live tour of the ALICE experiment in Geneva.

The Masterclasses are organized by the IPPOG (International Particle Physics Outreach Group), of which GSI is an associate member. Each year, more than 13,000 students from 60 countries come to one of about 225 nearby universities or research centers for a day to unlock the mysteries of particle physics. Many of the otherwise on-site events have been transformed into online formats due to the Corona pandemic. All events in Germany are held in collaboration with the Netzwerk Teilchenwelt, of which GSI/FAIR is a member. The goal of the nationwide network for communicating particle physics to young people and teachers is to make particle physics accessible to a broader public. (CP)

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