College students explore physics at the European Council for Nuclear Research

15th Jul, 2014 | Sixth Form News

Twenty one students from Nelson and Colne College Sixth Form had the trip of a lifetime, visiting the incredible CERN laboratory!

After completing their end of year exams, 21 students from the first and second year of study in A Level Physics and 3 members of staff left the College for an exhilarating trip to the heart of physics: the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva.

The College is already a recognised centre of excellence for the sciences and was one of the first colleges in the country to achieve STEM Assured status, an accolade awarded by the New Engineering Foundation. STEM Assured status is an industry-led kite-mark for excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Students from the College go on to enjoy great success and progress to some of the best universities in the country. New students are set to enjoy even greater success thanks to a new Science wing which has seen the creation of state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities.

CERN, founded in 1954, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. The laboratory employs just under 2400 full time employees and 1500 part time employees, and hosts around a staggering 10,000 scientists and engineers. These 10,000 individuals represent 608 universities and research facilities, and 113 different nationalities.

CERN operates a network of six accelerators and a decelerator—two linear accelerators (Linac2 and Linac3), the Proton Synchrotron Booster, the GeV Proton Synchrotron, the Super Proton Synchrotron, the On-Line Isotope Mass Separator, REX-ISOLDE, and the Antiproton Decelerator. CERN is also home to the Compact Linear Collider Test Facility, and of course the world famous Large Hadron Collider.

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s most expensive and powerful particle collider. Within it, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe, by making particles collide together at close to the speed of light. The process is intended to help physicists understand how particles interact and to provide insight into the fundamental laws of nature.

Physics students from the College were beyond excited to travel to CERN, and as an added bonus they were even given a tour of the flight deck by Easy Jet’s Captain and First Officer!

The next day, the students had time to tour the sites of Geneva before heading to CERN. As part of their visit, the students went 100m underground to the CMS detector—one of the four of the largest, most complex machines ever built, which (along with ATLAS) co-discovered the Higgs Boson last year. The staff and students were also treated to a fantastic lecture by a resident physicist and a tour of the facilities including an aerial view of the LEIR (Low Energy Ion Ring), LINAC (Linear Accelerator) and the proton source for the whole facility.

Stephen Coase, Science Lecturer, said, “The students thoroughly enjoyed being given some independence and experiencing Geneva for themselves! The highlight for most of them was the visit 100m below ground to the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the sites where the Higgs Boson was discovered. The scale of this detector was awe inspiring! It was a very rare event, as it is only possible to see when the Large Hadron Collider is not running.”

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