Particle Physics at CERN

11 July 2016

Students enrolled in the Mathematical Methods in Physics course at AUC annually participate in a two day visit to CERN, the world's largest particle accelerator, in Geneva, Switzerland. Once there, they descend 100 meters underground to visit one of the detectors and receive instructive lectures on particle physics and the cutting-edge research done at CERN. This is often accompanied by a lecture which the AUC coordinator gives at the University of Geneva, which the students are also encouraged to attend.

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Quantum mechanics and particle physics up close

The trip to CERN is an integral part of the course Mathematical Methods in Physics (formerly Symmetries and the Quantum Universe), a 300-level course in the Maths and Physics tracks at AUC. In the course, students study mathematical symmetries and apply them to quantum mechanics and particle physics. This learning is enhanced by the visit to CERN, which has two main aims. The first is seeing and experiencing, in practice, the significance of the topics studied in the course in the natural habitat where these theories are applied and tested, making abstract concepts more concrete. This emphasises the strong ties and intricate relationships between mathematics and physics which are the core of the course. The second aim of the visit is to provide motivation for students thinking of pursuing careers in the relevant areas (physics, mathematics, computer science) through direct contact with one of the largest and most advanced experiments in the world. 

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Cooperation between AUC and Nikhef

The trip is partially sponsored by AUC and by Nikhef, the National Institute for Subatomic Physics in the Netherlands. Their research is aimed at particle and astroparticle physics. Scientists and technicians work together on researching the smallest building blocks of matter and the forces that act between them. These minuscule particles are studied in collision processes using large particle accelerators, including those of CERN near Geneva, as well as in interactions of high-energy cosmic particles in the Earth's atmosphere and/or in seawater. Nikhef is AUC’s neighbour,  located just across the street at the Science Park campus in Amsterdam.

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Renske Merton (Class of 2016):

“Visiting CERN was a great experience that really added to my physics education at AUC. It brings to life the courses that involve high energy particle physics, as they almost always refer to the experiments at CERN. To have actually seen some of the experiments and have heard people who work at CERN talk about them makes the content of particle physics more real. The visit gives you a first glance at what kind of working environment you could end up in.”

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Published by  Amsterdam University College