Frontiers of Science Lecture Series: Particle Smashers, Higgs Hunters, and the Fundamental Theory of Nature

Nov. 21, 2012 – University of Utah physicist Pearl Sandick will discuss “Particle Smashers, Higgs Hunters and the Fundamental Theory of Nature” during the next talk in the Frontiers of Science Lecture Series.

Sandick, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, will deliver her free public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 in the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Biology Building Auditorium on the University of Utah campus.

In the 1960s, physicist Peter Higgs proposed the existence of a “Higgs field” – an invisible field that affects nearly all of the known particles, endowing them with mass. According to quantum field theory, there must be a particle associated with the Higgs field – the long-sought Higgs boson.

Today, more than 300 feet below Geneva, Switzerland at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), thousands of scientists from around the world are searching for evidence of a Higgs field by accelerating protons to nearly the speed of light and scrutinizing the wreckage of their powerful collisions.

Nearly half a century after the idea of a Higgs field first was proposed, physicists announced on July 4, 2012, that the LHC had discovered a Higgs-like particle.

This finding is a major step towards the goal of understanding the origin of mass, with implications for the fundamental theory of physics that describes our universe.  For example, supersymmetry is an elegant framework that encompasses and extends our current theory of particle physics.  In supersymmetric models, not only are the properties of the Higgs boson predicted, there is also a natural explanation for the mysterious dark matter in the universe.

In her lecture, Sandick will tell the story of the elusive Higgs boson, the decades-long hunt and what it may mean for the future of particle physics.

Before coming to the University of Utah, Sandick received a B.A. in mathematics at New York University and a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota. Most recently, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the theory group at the University of Texas at Austin. She currently is studying particle physics beyond what is known as the Standard Model, including dark matter. Her research involves the connections between theoretical particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics.

The Frontiers of Science Lecture Series is sponsored by EnergySolutions, the University of Utah’s College of Science and College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

Lectures are free and open to the public. No expertise in physics is presumed. Visit www.science.utah.edu for more information

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