August 16, 2012
Tripping the Light Fantastic
particle leads UFV student to London
Dessa Bayrock, UFV
Timothy Richards, a third-year Physics
and Math major is travelling to London to attend the London
International Youth Science Forum.
may be that Quantum physics is the last thing on your mind this summer, but
it's been a full-time job for three students and a professor at UFV.
And as a result of their hard work and focus, one student is off to London
to participate in a prestigious forum hosted by Imperial College London.
UFV physics student Timothy Richards will be attending the International
Youth Science Forum (IYSF), which welcomed more than 300 students from 50
different countries last year.
This research project is headed by UFV professor Derek Harnett, who has
three students working for him this summer. One of them funded through the
work-study program at UFV, and the other two (including Richards) are funded
by a grant through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Canada (NSERC), as is Harnett.
team is using data collected from two particle accelerators - one in Japan,
and one in California - to either confirm or deny the existence of a
particle called a hybrid.
"Theory strongly suggests these particles exist," Harnett explains.
"Physicists just haven't tracked them down."
When mystery particles were spotted during another experiment, Harnett
decided to figure out the theoretical mass of a hybrid to see if the numbers
might match one of the newly observed mystery particles.
It would be the first time in history that anyone could confirm the
existence of this particle, although there is a possibility that it isn't
what they're looking for.
"Obviously it's more exciting if we can confirm it," Harnett says with a
laugh, "but either way, this calculation will be a success. We'll be
discovering important data about it one way or another."
And for the students involved, this research is a huge stepping stone. The
work is at a level usually pursued by grad students, and the three
undergrads of Harnett's team had to do a semester of reading to get ahead.
However, there are perks to hitting the books so hard. Richards will be in
London for two weeks this summer, representing both the research team and
UFV on an international level.
Richards is entering his fourth year at UFV in the fall pursuing a double
major in math and physics. It's a course load that doesn't allow for a lot
of free time, but this trip will allow him a bit of a break from his
studies. But he's just as excited about the chance to talk to other students
as explore London.
"There will be students from all sorts of countries presenting their
research, as well as guest speakers, seminars - not just in physics but
biology, math, and chemistry, - and then tours of laboratories around
London," Richards explains.
The students of the team have buckled down and worked hard with this
research, Harnett says, and they completely deserve these kinds of
opportunities. He hopes the team can attend other physics conferences closer
to home in the fall. The American Physicists' Society and the Canadian
Association of Physicists both hold conference geared towards undergraduates
that would be perfect for this team.
"At the end of this research, these students will have their names on the
paper," Harnett says. "That will help them down the road when they're
applying for graduate school, grants, or other research opportunities. And
they deserve it; they've done a lot of work. If it were easy, I wouldn't
need their help."
Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice