Two top physics students presented with Higgs Prize

October 4, 2019 by No Comments | Category Schools, Science

Agnijo Banerjee and Jane Ambler were awarded the 2018 Higgs Prize for achieving the top scores in the 2018 Advanced Higher physics exam.

The prize is named after Edinburgh-based Nobel prize winner Professor Peter Higgs CH, whose work has advanced our understanding of how the particles that make up the world around us are held together. It is run by the Scottish Government to celebrate the achievement of physics pupils and inspire the next generation of world-leading Scottish scientists.

Winners also have the opportunity to visit the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) which straddles the Swiss-French border, and meet scientists working at the cutting edge of particle physics.

Here, Agnijo blogs about his experience:

It was a fantastic experience going to CERN as Higgs Prize winners and, afterwards, meeting Professor Higgs himself. We visited a wide range of places in CERN, including a great many particle accelerators. For instance, the Proton Synchrotron was built as early as 1959 and was able to reach the highest energies achievable at the time (25 GeV), and it is still operational to this day.

While we couldn’t go inside the actual Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel itself, we did get to visit three of its detectors, ATLAS (A Toroidal Large Hadron Collider Apparatus), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), and ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), with ATLAS and CMS being the two main detectors that detect the result of proton-proton collisions and ALICE being used to detect lead-ion collisions.

l-r Higgs Prize 2018 winners Jane Ambler and Agnijo Banerjee at CERN

l-r Higgs Prize 2018 winners Jane Ambler and Agnijo Banerjee at CERN

We met many scientists from all around the world, giving a sense of just how international CERN is, with scientists from over 100 countries collaborating there. We also visited the Antimatter Factory, where anti-hydrogen atoms are produced and studied to test whether antimatter really does have identical properties (such as mass) to ordinary matter and, if not, whether this could explain why there is so much matter instead of antimatter in the Universe. Here we actually got to go inside the tunnel of the Antiproton Decelerator, used to slow down antiprotons so that they can be contained and studied.

We saw the control centre for the AMS detector, which is on the International Space Station and is detecting cosmic rays. We visited the Computer Centre, where in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee first came up with the idea that would become the World Wide Web, and various other places. Throughout the visit our contact, Mick Storr, was extremely helpful and knowledgeable and we learned a huge amount from him.

Higgs prize winners Agnijo and Jane with some of the equipment at CERN

Agnijo and Jane with some of the equipment at CERN

On our return to Scotland, we met Professor Higgs himself, who presented us with our awards alongside Richard Lochhead, the Minister for Further and Higher Education and Science, at the James Clerk Maxwell House in Edinburgh. It was a great honour to meet Professor Higgs and I was struck by how humble he was. There I learned a lot about the life and works of Maxwell, one of the most important physicists in history. Overall it was a wonderful experience.

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