Science students invited to showcase research at the University of Oxford

14 secondary school students from across the country have been invited to showcase their research on particle physics at a scientific conference being held in the Physics Department at the University of Oxford. The Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) partnered with researchers at the University of Oxford on a project to analyse tracks from the ATLAS detector at CERN. Students analysed images and created posters on their results. They were then invited to then present their work to academics at the University. They also had a tour of the Oxford Physics Department, sat in on lectures, gained advice on applying to university and they stayed in Merton College.

Within the Higgs Hunters project students learned about research being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland

Through the initial Zooniverse Higgs Hunters project, members of the public flagged over one million interesting locations in images of CERN collisions while hunting for so-called “Baby Higgs” bosons. These are exotic particles which some scientists believe may form when a Higgs particle decays. Groups of students working with IRIS then further analysed the images to ascertain the reliability of the public’s classifications and enhance the analysis by inspired use of new algorithms and data analysis techniques.

Students who submitted impressive posters on their work were given the opportunity to present their research at the University of Oxford and to meet Professor Alan Barr and his team. The trip included a number of practical sessions and in depth discussions on the students work by academics who attended their poster presentation.

Of the trip, the students have said: “It gave me a chance to do proper physics and learn new skills. This has shown me the challenge and opportunities in research.”

Professor Alan Barr, who helped initiate the Higgs Hunters project, remarked that: “My colleagues and I have been incredibly impressed with the research that the students presented. We could never have imagined when this project started that we would see such a rich range of scientifically interesting topics being explored!

The director of IRIS, Professor Becky Parker, said: “IRIS aims to offer young people opportunities to contribute to cutting edge research. With Higgs Hunters the students came up with ideas and approaches which interested and delighted the academics showing how innovative young people can be and how well they respond to opportunities where they can flourish doing real science.”

For more information on the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) and the Higgs Hunters project, please visit the IRIS website www.researchinschools.org/higgs_hunters/home.html