Fermilab internship of Ateneo MS Physics student Michael Andrews

Michael Andrews at Fermilab

Michael Andrews with representatitive ttbar->lep+jets decay calculations on the white board

Internship at Fermilab

by Michael Andrews

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (a.k.a. Fermilab ) is the U.S. Government’s dedicated high-energy physics laboratory; it was the home of the former crown jewel of the high energy physics community, the Tevatron collider, which was laid to rest at the end of September 2011. The collider was conceived to confirm, primarily, the existence of the heaviest quark, the top quark. And in many respects, because of this dedicated design, top quark research produced at Fermilab still remains not-too-far-off from measurements made by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

There are two main collaborations connected with the Tevatron, CDF and DZero, corresponding to the 2 collision detectors lying along the Tevatron ring. I am currently doing my internship with the DZero collaboration, under the auspices of Dr. Michael Wang, a University of the Philippines (UP) graduate. The internship began last July and will continue through to mid-January.

I got word of the opportunity to do research at Fermilab through the Director of the National Institute of Physics (NIP) at UP, Dr. Arnel Salvador who had received an open invitation from Dr. Wang more than 2 years ago, without any takers since. I wrote Dr. Wang an email expressing my interest to do high-energy physics research, and after some informal email interviews, so began the long road to finalizing the internship. This included securing an allowance from Fermilab for my living expenses, and filling out a long list of visa paperwork.

I specifically work with the Top quark research group at DZero. The top quark, being the heaviest quark, is hoped to be an important window to new physical phenomena. My analysis involves measuring the distribution of helicity states of W bosons decaying from top quarks. While such measurements constitute important records of the properties of top quarks and their decays, its greater prospect lies in its sensitivity to ‘new physics.’

Among the many ways ‘new physics’ may conceivably present itself, at least one idea affects the shape of the distribution of these W boson helicity states. Therefore, a precise measurement of this distribution is imperative for setting constraints on this idea. I will be using the ‘matrix element’ measurement technique, which has been responsible for some of the most precise measurements of various top quark properties, and was proudly developed at Dzero. While this will not be the first time a measurement of the ‘W-helicity’ is made, this will be the first time the full Tevatron data set will be used in its measurement, potentially providing tighter constraints on the shape of these helicity distributions.

The work can get tough but overall it is a fulfilling field to work in, and, given the opportunity, would like to pursue it further. I have my eyes set on PhD studies for the upcoming year.

Wilson Hall at Fermilab

Wilson Hall at Fermilab

Photomultiplier array at the 'forward' and 'backward' detector system

Photomultiplier array at the ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ detector system

Access doors to the detector when it is brought out for maintenance

Access doors to the detector when it is brought
out for maintenance

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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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