Particle Physics is the science that tries to understand what the most elementary constituents of matter are and to deduce the laws of nature that govern their interactions. The Standard Model of particle physics provides an astonishingly good description of the fundamental particles and their interactions. The electroweak sector is beautifully and precisely calculable from photon exchange in QED with the addition of the gauge bosons W and Z to mediate the weak interaction. The strong interaction sector is described remarkably well at high energies by QCD. Many physicists, however, believe that the Standard Model must be incomplete since so many parameters, including the quark and lepton masses, the quark mixing angles, and the nature of the Higgs sector, are not calculable but instead must be inserted by hand. In addition recent results from astrophysics indicate that 95% of the content of the universe has not been identified.
Physics beyond the Standard Model, such as supersymmetry, grand unification, and superstrings, promises to enable calculation of many of these parameters from fundamental principles. New phenomena predicted in the mass range to be made accessible at the LHC includes a complete elucidation of the Higgs sector and the likely discovery of many new particles - the super-partners of the Standard Model quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons. These potential discoveries, and more probably those yet to be imagined, will most likely occur at a hadron collider with a detector that emphasizes high quality lepton detection. Such a detector is one being designed for use at the LHC: the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector.
In CMS, the Rice High Energy group has major responsibilities in the Endcap Muon (EMU) and EMU Trigger subsystems. In particular I am manager of the US CMS EMU project. Within both the EMU and Trigger subsystems we are responsible for major contributions to the electronics.
In the video below, Brian Cox introduces what we are trying to do at the LHC. (You might have to allow blocked content if this is to be visible.)
Graduate Research Opportunities:
Before going to graduate school in physics you should be sure that you really want to do it. You will be expected to work long and hard on difficult problems. Given that the job prospects for physicists are poor in the best of times, you should also make sure that you get experience that is relevant to the industrial world. Fortunately given the industrial scale of particle physics experiments - there are lots of opportunities to do this. You also must have a burning desire to learn something about nature. For example it really does bother me that we don't have a quantum field theory of gravity. A theory that links gravity with the other forces of nature invariably leads to new interactions and particles that we can search for in particle physics experiments such as CMS which is why I am working on that experiments. There are many opportunities for graduate research topics including (but not limited to):
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