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Matter, Space & Time

Jia researches particle physics at Fermilab

Inquiring Minds

While many students take a break from studying during the summer,

Jia spent her summer rubbing elbows with the world's top physicists

As a dual major in physics and chemistry, with a minor in math, I was ecstatic to be selected for a prestigious summer research internship at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Fermilab logo

Fermilab, originally the National Accelerator Laboratory, was renamed in honor of Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi in 1974. Since it was founded in 1967, scientists at Fermilab have conducted research in high-energy physics to answer questions about the universe - what it is made of, how it works and where it comes from.

Fermilab has accomplished so much - two major components - the bottom and top quarks - of the Standard Model, the theory that explains the interaction between fundamental particles that make up the universe, were discovered there. Moreover, in July 2000, Fermilab experimenters announced the first direct observation of the tau neutrino, the last fundamental particle to be observed.

Fermilab's Tevatron is the world's most powerful accelerator. The Tevatron accelerates and collides protons and antiprotons in a four-mile-long underground ring (the graphic to the right shows the accelerator rings). About 2,300 physicists from all over the world come to Fermilab to conduct experiments using particle accelerators.

Fermilab Tevatron diagram

Jia takes an up-close look at the CDF
I worked in the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) during my 10 week internship. My main goal was to find the existence of the Z' particle: a massive gauge boson predicted by many modes of physics beyond the Standard Model. The method I used was to study proton-antiproton collisions producing a Z' particle, which subsequently decays to an electron and positron.

Just a week before I left, the CDF shut down, so I got a chance to actually go down and see what the inside of the detector looks like.

Working at Fermilab and being exposed to the world-class scientists, new ideas and methods has only strengthened my interest to work in a laboratory setting.
It was a great summer.

Jia with her Fermilab mentor

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