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Researching particle physics

Masterclasses: three digital workshops for high school students

First hand research: In February and March, three particle physics courses will be held for high-school students. On these days, participants will learn about research methods, identify elementary particles in particle collisions, and “visit” experiments at an observatory on La Palma, at the particle accelerators at CERN in Geneva, and at the CEC in Japan.

Students in the MPP's lecture hall. This will not be the case for the Masterclasses 2021: All events take place in a virtual format. (Photo: B. Wankerl/MPP)

Students in the MPP's lecture hall. This will not be the case for the Masterclasses 2021: All events take place in a virtual format. (Photo: B. Wankerl/MPP)

Because of the corona-related contact restrictions, the workshops will take place as video conferences, each lasting several hours. Only a few days after the start of registration, all places were snatched up.

“We are very pleased about the great interest in our research areas in particle physics,” says Barbara Wankerl, press officer at the Max Planck Institute for Physics. “This also shows us that digital formats are well received among the public.”

The courses are organized by scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Physics, the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), the Cluster of Excellence “Origins”, and the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

February 17, 2021: Gamma astronomy with the MAGIC and LST-1 telescopes

Gamma rays give astrophysicists a completely different view of celestial objects than can be seen using optical light, infrared radiation, or radio waves: They provide information about processes in the universe that occur at the highest energy levels – such as near black holes or in the remnants of supernovae.

The course will give the school students an insight into the world of astroparticles and explain how scientists work with gamma-ray telescopes. It will conclude with a live broadcast to the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma.

February 25, 2021: Researching with ATLAS data

Although the structure of matter is now well understood, some questions remain unanswered: How do elementary particles interact? Why are some particles heavy and others light? Why does gravity behave so differently from the other fundamental forces we know? With the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the ATLAS detector at CERN, scientists are searching for new and previously unknown aspects of physics.

The course gives an overview of particle physics and the structure of the ATLAS detector. Afterwards, the participants will evaluate data from the ATLAS experiment before sharing their results with school students from other countries in an international video conference with CERN.

March 3, 2021: Researching with Belle II data

How is it that there is more matter than antimatter in the universe? There is already one lead: A certain type of particle does not decay into matter and antimatter in equal parts – as we would actually expect. With the new Belle II experiment in Japan, which started in 2019, scientists are trying to solve the mystery of anti-matter.

The course will introduce the fundamentals of physics and the Belle II detector. Afterwards, the school students will work with real data from the Belle II experiment and discuss it with school students from other cities. Other highlights include a virtual tour of the experiment and a live link to the Japanese research center.

About the International Masterclasses

The three events will take place as part of the 17th International School Student Research Days – International Particle Physics Masterclasses. At 225 universities and research institutions, around 13,000 school students will experience “first hand” research for a day.