JOHN DAVIES: Journey of our Higgs-Boson scientist

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z JOHN DAVIES: Journey of our Higgs-Boson scientistBy John Davies
March 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Here’s how a Purdue Calumet scientist helped find the Higgs-Boson, or the “God particle.” Remember, it was big news when discovered last year!

Indeed, the Nobel Prize went to Peter Higgs of the United Kingdom and Francopis Englert of Belgium during 2013. They were two of six physicists who had postulated nearly 50 years ago that this particle existed.

Ironically, this award didn't go to the thousands of scientists who have been searching for the particle since 2010. It was eventually discovered at the world’s largest laboratory in Switzerland called CERN. One of these scientists is Neeti Parashar of Purdue University Calumet.

She is a significant player among two teams of physicists worldwide who have extended the boundaries of knowledge that could lead to unimaginable discoveries in the future. In fact, she was a group leader in this historic search for the elusive particle.

Parashar has been at Purdue Cal since 2005, setting up a high energy physics program and securing federal funding of at least $1 million for her research.

I visited with Parashar about her journey of discovery in which she guided her team to help verify the particle.

Neeti was not only leading one of the many teams searching for the particle. She also was involved in likely the most critical phase of developing the pixel detector technology that was a key to its discovery.

She was invited to join the huge CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment at CERN in 2004 when she was at Louisiana Tech. From there she was commuting to and from the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia. When she joined Purdue Cal, she continued her research at Fermilab and CERN, putting Purdue Cal on the world map of discoveries.

Her odyssey began when she got her doctorate at the University of Delhi in high energy physics. After graduation, she was at Oxford, and then accepted a fellowship in Italy. There she looked out her window every day at the Leaning Tower of Pisa that Galileo made famous by his experiments.

Legend has it that he dropped objects from the tower and came up with the fundamental concept of free-fall motion. Then in 1971, Apollo astronauts re-performed Galileo’s experiments on the moon and proved the “father of physics” right!

At Purdue Cal, Parashar led her team that contributed to the construction of the pixel detector, developing its software geometry and validating the data. This smaller device is used in a massive underground chamber five stories deep at CERN.

This global effort consists of 6,000 physicists who developed the large detector that measured the data and verified the existence of the “God particle.”

Northwest Indiana can take pride that one of our innovative scientists was involved in the discovery of this most fundamental particle of science.

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