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New opportunities to study the Big Bang, time inversion, and the conditions for our existence, as StFX becomes part of BABAR collaboration

November 30th, 2017
L-r, physics professor Dr. Hossain Ahmed and department chair Dr. Peter Marzlin

StFX is now part of a major, international particle physics collaboration that will bring about new opportunities for StFX students to study questions on such matters as the Big Bang, time inversion, and the conditions for our existence through accessing data only available to members of the collaboration.

Through physics professor Dr. Hossain Ahmed, StFX has become part of the BABAR collaboration, a particle physics experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University in California. It’s an international collaboration having about 600 physicists and engineers from 75 institutions in 13 countries.

Particle physics, Dr. Ahmed says, is about trying to understand the universe at a fundamental level, which also allows researchers to develop new technology, such as the production of medical isotopes using accelerators.

The primary goal of the BABAR experiment, he and StFX Physics Department Chair Dr. Peter Marzlin say, was to study charge parity violation (CP Violation) in nature, but it also helped to deepen basic understanding of the universe, including lepton flavor violation, dark matter, and tests of new theories.

BABAR produced more than 500 journal papers, including the precise measurements of differences between matter and antimatter, which have proved the theory of Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, resulting in the awarding of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Due to its unique collision energies, BABAR data is still in high demand to analyze and prove new scientific theories, they say.

“This data is very important to analyze physical theories,” Dr. Ahmed says. “StFX students will get the benefit of that and they will be able to contribute to the physics community, both in the BABAR collaboration and beyond.”   

“The inclusion of StFX in the BABAR collaboration gives Dr. Ahmed and his students access to the data that has been gathered in the experiment,” Dr. Marzlin says. “This will provide physics students with a unique opportunity to get involved in analyzing data of a major scientific experiment, which is only accessible to institutions that are part of the collaboration. Hence, for the first time, StFX students can get involved into experimental elementary particle physics.”

Dr. Ahmed, the first to work in particle physics at StFX, has been working with BABAR since 2009, both as a post-doctoral fellow and as a faculty member while at other institutions. He says when he came to StFX he thought about how the collaboration may work here and decided to approach the collaboration board, presenting a proposal of the benefits of including StFX as a collaborator.  

Dr. Marzlin says being accepted as a collaborator is a big deal.

“It’s not that easy to get into that big of a collaboration. It’s by no means automatic. It speaks for Dr. Ahmed’s qualities as a researcher that StFX was so quickly accepted into that collaboration,” he says.

They say they are now working on providing opportunity for StFX students to become involved, including looking at options for students to visit the SLAC lab.



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