by Despina Hatzifotiadou. Published: 03 December 2010

Thousands of high school students will unravel the mysteries of particle physics during March. As part of the 7th International Particle Physics Masterclasses the pupils, from 23 different countries, will travel to nearby universities and research centers to analyse collision data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – including a special new exercise put forward by ALICE.

The pilot run of this exercise was undertaken on 17 November this year, when 23 students and two teachers from Geneva’s Collège Sismondi came to CERN to spend a day immersed in particle physics by analysing real data.

The ALICE Experiment/CERN

One of the events studied in the new masterclass

The morning was spent watching a film on the history of CERN, followed by a seminar on ALICE and CERN. Yves Schutz explained the experiment to them, highlighting the importance of heavy ion physics, and was on hand to answer questions afterwards. After, they toured the exhibition at Point 2, the ALICE control room and the accelerator technology exhibition at SM18.

The exercise was undertaken in the afternoon, 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 collisions, at 900 GeV, recorded by ALICE last year. The aim of the exercise was to hunt for strange hadrons by identifying cascade and V0 decays.

The students offered valuable feedback, both through the questions they posed during the exercise and with the comments they made afterwards. The exercise is now being finalised, taking this feedback into consideration.

This exercise will join others based on LHC data for introduction in the European Particle Physics Outreach Group‘s 2011 masterclasses – which are planned to run from the 5-26 March. CERN will participate, with pupils from local French and Swiss schools invited.

Volunteers will be needed to assist in the running of these events; ALICE members are encouraged to participate – time interacting with the young students, sharing our passion for physics with them, can be a rewarding and enriching experience for all concerned.