Scientists from the University of Wisconsin have spent many years working with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, which has recently come into the spotlight for its research regarding the Higgs Boson particle.
Wesley Smith, Bjorn Wiik professor of physics in the Department of Physics at UW, said Wisconsin is one of the leading universities involved in working with the collaboration of groups within CERN.
Smith said this study is a $10 billion project spanning 40 different countries and 150 different institutions.
Smith said the researchers do not for certain know if what they found is the Higgs particle yet but that they hope it is since it is consistent with a Higgs Boson. If what the researchers found is indeed the Higgs Boson, studying the particle will allow for the exploration about the origin of mass, Smith said.
This is one of the fundamental discoveries for science in the past 50 years, Smith said.
“It is very gratifying to finally see some results; we always hoped it would happen, but it has been a long time,” Smith said. “If it pans out that this is the Higgs Boson, then we have opened up a whole new area to explore about something fundamental in physics.”
Smith said he hopes these discoveries will increase the value of science and scientific innovation and influence students to pursue careers and science, math and engineering.
The next step for the project is to run additional data to prove the discovered particle is the Higgs Boson, and to do so detectors involved with the study must be modified to be able to harvest more data, Smith said.
Sau Lan Wu, Enrico Fermi professor and Vilas professor at UW, said she has been searching for the Higgs particle for thirty years.
According to the Standard Model theory formulated in the 1960s, all quarks and leptons start without any mass, but, because they cannot be massless, it is the Higgs particle that gives all them their mass because of the interaction of quarks and leptons with the Higgs, Wu said.
“The discovery of the Higgs particle has brought tremendous worldwide attention. The fact that the UW scientists play leading roles in this discovery has placed UW at the forefront of fundamental research of historical importance,” Wu said.
Wu said she would like to thank the UW chancellors, provosts, and deans who have supported her throughout the project.
She said she has appreciated their foresight and appreciation of her work on fundamental science.
“This discovery of the Higgs particle has opened an important new direction for elementary particle research,” Wu said. “It is an entirely new vista to be explored, and we shall be very excited in exploring the beautiful scenario in the next years.”
The vast majority of funding for the project specifically at Wisconsin comes from the Office of Science within the U.S. Department of Energy and from the National Science Foundation, with a small amount from university funding and no Wisconsin taxpayer dollars involved, Smith said.