Learning about Truth: What is the World Made of?
Decades of experimental work have revealed that the Universe is made up of fundamental particles called quarks and leptons. Although our current mathematical description of nature is spectacularly successful at describing experimental observations, it fails to answer many fundamental questions, such as: Why do these particles have the mass they have? Why is there more matter than antimatter?
Researchers, such as Canada Research Chair Dr. Brigitte Vachon, hope to find answers to these and other related questions by studying matter under conditions that are much like those that existed a few billionths of a second after the birth of our universe. Such extreme conditions can be momentarily re-created in particle collisions of extreme violence.
Dr. Vachon is particularly interested in the Top quark, the heaviest known fundamental particle to be produced during highest energy particle collisions. She is searching for a new production process that is predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics.
Also known as Truth, the Top quark has peculiar properties - such as its unusually heavy mass - that provide unique experimental grounds for the testing of the current mathematical description of nature and where, perhaps, Dr. Vachon will discover hints of new physical phenomena.
As a member of the DO international collaboration based at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, Dr. Vachon is contributing to the analysis of the large data set collected by the DO experiment and she is playing a lead role in the development of the electronic system designed to identify, in real-time, potentially interesting collision data. She is also involved in the ATLAS experiment due to begin operation in 2006. The ATLAS detector, located at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, will record the result of particle collisions at the next energy frontier.