This proposal supports research at the frontiers of experimental particle physics. The goals of the program are to lead discoveries on the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and to promote teaching, learning, and sharing the excitement of the research with the broader community.

Intellectual Merit: The scientific goal of the program is to discover new particles that explain unification of the fundamental forces and particles, the mystery of dark matter and energy, and the lack of antimatter in our universe. The research being proposed will maximize the scientific value of the CMS experiment at the LHC. In the first two years of the program novel techniques developed by the PI will be used to optimize the detector for the discoveries through careful alignment analysis of its components. In the subsequent years, the optimized detector will be used as a tool to discover new mysterious particles. The unprecedented level of the energy scale of the new collider facility will open an extensive range of physics topics. A new mysterious Higgs particle is expected to be responsible for the property of mass of all particles. The angular analysis of its decay will be a way to understand its origin. The PI has already tools to disentangle complicated angular structures through his discoveries in the area of quark flavor physics. The Higgs may not be alone, and a more general symmetry may be necessary to explain the fundamental laws of physics. A popular symmetry predicts heavy supersymmetric particles. The research direction during the subsequent years of the program will be guided by the first data. Discovery of new particles at the energy frontier will depend on the ability to distinguish them from an enormous background of random particles produced in the high-energy collisions. Understanding the alignment of thousands of silicon sensors which track the particle paths is necessary to achieve micron precision and becomes the decisive factor in success of the program. The PI plans new procedures for alignment analysis of the CMS silicon tracking system using combination of the optical survey measurements and information from tracks. The PI brings this advanced technique from his pioneering studies in the quark flavor experiment and builds on expertise of the Johns Hopkins group in the CMS silicon detectors.

Broader Impact: The proposed research has a strong educational component. It will provide training for graduate students and allow undergraduate students to participate in research. The PI plans to develop hands-on demonstrations of elementary particles and other outreach activities through the QuarkNet program, annual Johns Hopkins Physics Fair, and collaboration with the Maryland Science Center. Collaboration with the Science Center has been funded by NSF from the EPSI grant. The PI will engage graduate students in collaboration with experts from the Science Center to create new exhibits which will communicate LHC research results to the public. This will strengthen the student's skills for public outreach, fulfill the Center's mission to further the public understanding of research, and serve as a guide for other universities and centers.

Project Report

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) accelerates and collides protons at energies that are equivalent to temperatures about billion times the temperature of the Sun. These collisions effectively recreate conditions that existed in the earliest moments of the Universe and may lead to the discovery of the mysterious Higgs Boson. The observation of the Higgs Boson would uncover the mechanism responsible for generating the masses of elementary particles and this, in turn, would determine much about the nature of the Universe in which we live. Much of our research was to prepare for the search for the Higgs Boson and to obtain the first results from itssearch on the CMS experiment at LHC. A Particle Physics detector, such as CMS, is a huge, multi-component cylindrical device that surrounds the region where the counter circulating beams of particles in the accelerator collide. Silicon vertex detectors, or "silicon trackers" as they are sometimes known, sit at the heartof the detector, closest to the collision region. They consist of arrays of up to thousands of individual silicon sensors that detect the passage of particles through them. These arrays are used to reconstruct the details of the motion of particles produced by the colliding beams near the point where those particles are created. Understanding the alignment of these thousands of sensors is necessary to a few microns precision and becomes a decisive factor in the success of the experiment. We developed advanced techniques for silicon vertex detector alignment. As a result, our knowledge of the module positions improved to 3 - 4 microns for barrel modules in the bending plane as measured with respect to particle trajectories. At the LHC, it is crucial to develop methods for discovery of new states of matter or energy, such as the Higgs Boson or other even more exotic states, and to determine their quantum numbers (such as spin and parity), their masses, and their couplings to known states (or fields in quantum theory) as accurately as possible. An important aspect of our research approach was to extract the maximum information about any new state observed at the LHC. We developed the data-analysis tools and Monte Carlo simulation techniques to allow such studies. The first results from our search for the Higgs Boson provide tantalizing hints of its existence while excluding a wide range of previously allowed possibilities. The definite answer in the search for the Higgs Boson is expected soon after completion of this grant period. We communicate our research results to the public through outreach activities. We developed these activities through the QuarkNet program, annual Johns Hopkins Physics Fair, National Science and Engineering Festivals, and collaboration with the Maryland Science Center, as well as through hands-on demonstrations of elementary particles on the university site. We involve both graduate and undergraduate students in these activities, to strengthen their communication skills, connect their research with everyday life experience, and to prepare them as scholars.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
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Randal Ruchti
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Johns Hopkins University
United States
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