Published: 4 April 2014

Trip to the edge of human understanding

Cern Visit

Students from Neston High School have visited CERN in Switzerland for the 10th consecutive year, to be shown around by a former pupil who is now a University of Liverpool researcher working at the cutting edge of particle physics.

The students spent three days at CERN being guided by members of the ATLAS Collaboration including Dean Forshaw, who was on the first trip organised by the University with Neston High School 10 years ago.

Dean now works as part of the large University of Liverpool team helping to upgrade the giant ATLAS experiment on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (where the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012) but his first visit to CERN was as a Neston High School pupil in 2004.

As a result he was ideally placed to show the current crop of A Level physics students around the home of the 27km Large Hadron Collider and the birthplace of the World Wide Web.

Dean is currently working on developing detectors for ATLAS which will need to cope with up to 10 billion collisions per second and much higher radiation doses once the LHC is upgraded early next decade to become the High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC). He said: “I never would have considered a career in particle physics without the opportunities and support given to me by Neston High School.

“Ten years on from my first trip to CERN; I’m about to complete my PhD at Liverpool.”

The tour is part of a free service offered by CERN for schools, with accommodation etc covered by the students, but with support for travel from the Institute of Physics (IOP) and Department of Physics at Liverpool. It gives the students a chance to see some of the highest profile experiments currently being undertaken in science.

This is the 10th year that the IOP and University have sponsored the school to run these trips for their physics students. In that time there has been an increase in students picking physics for A Level and many, like Dean, have gone on to study the subject at university.

During the visit the students saw the ATLAS experiment, LHC control centre, the LHC magnet test facility and the control room at CERN for a large anti-matter experiment (AMS) on the International Space Station.

As well as the Liverpool scientists, they were also accompanied on their tour by other senior CERN staff and colleagues on ATLAS from the Science and Technology Facilities Council. On their return they met local MP and Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, Andrew Miller.

Student Cameron McAllister said: “Seeing CERN was an amazing experience. Talking to the scientists working there, some of whom had been to my school, just showed how far you can go by studying physics.”

Professor Phil Allport is the Liverpool physicist leading the upgrade to the ATLAS detector. He said: “I don’t think either Dean or I expected when we first met while he was a student at Neston High School that 10 years later he would be exploring technologies that will make operation of the HL-LHC possible.

“I very much hope that I’ll be working alongside some of this year’s students in the future as well.”

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