by Polly Bennett. Published: 30 March 2012

The ALICE Masterclasses took place on March 22nd as part of the ‘ International Masterclasses: Hands on Particle Physics’ programme run by IPPOG, the International Particle Physics Outreach Group. In a visit to CERN, high school students from the Lycée International de Ferney were provided with an introduction to CERN and the ALICE experiment before carrying out an exercise analysing real ALICE data. The day finished with a light-hearted quiz in the style of the game show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

The analysis session took place at the CERN Training Centre. Working in pairs, and by using a simplified version of the ALICE event display, the pupils analysed data from proton and lead ion collisions recorded by ALICE last year. The aim of the exercise was to hunt for strange hadrons by identifying cascade and V0 decays.

Polly Bennett

The students during the analysis session

IPPOG aims to increase knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for particle physics through outreach activities, of which the Masterclasses are the flagship event. The cornerstone of the Masterclass events is a videoconference, with other participating school groups, to discuss the results of their analyses. The conference is designed to highlight the benefit of combining data sets in scientific analysis. Joining the ALICE student group in the videoconference were groups from Nantes, France; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; and Clermont Ferrand, France.

Polly Bennett

The students during the analysis session

Several ALICE researchers were involved throughout the day, providing support, presentations, and enthusiasm for the students. Despina Hatzifotiadou, ALICE Outreach Coordinator said, “We were nine “tutors” explaining the tools and helping the students with the exercise. A big thank you goes out to all of them. The help of everybody was essential for the success of the day; in the end they also enjoyed the interaction with the students and found the experience interesting and entertaining.”

Polly Bennett

2 students get stuck into the analysis while Giacinto de Cataldo writes helpful formulae on the blackboard behind

The students provided feedback of the day’s activities. Although they were disappointed not to visit the underground part of the experiment, due to the start up of the 2012 run, they were able to visit the ALICE Control Room and Exhibition. In addition they enjoyed the presentations given by ALICE researchers and found the afternoon’s analysis session interesting but a little too long. The videoconference received mixed feedback, but the quiz received a very positive response from the students.

Concluding on the day’s activities Despina said, “It is a good opportunity for us to talk about what we are doing and explain the physics of ALICE - especially to students who live in the area, but often do not know what CERN is about. And who knows – maybe some of them, inspired by their experience, will come back as physicists in some years’ time.”



GSI also held their Masterclass in March:

C. Pomplun, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung Darmstadt

Reinhard Simon, GSI’s IPPOG Local Organiser, helps students with the analysis

C. Pomplun, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung Darmstadt

The students during the analysis session

C. Pomplun, GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung Darmstadt

The students during the analysis session