Physicists from SMU and around the globe were euphoric last year with the revelation that a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson “God particle” has been observed.

Described as a great triumph for science, the observation is the biggest physics discovery of the last 50 years and opens what scientists said is a vast new frontier for more research.

The achievement is the result of the global CERN scientific collaboration of thousands of scientists, including physicists and graduate students from SMU, and CERN’s massive $10 billion Large Hadron Collider proton smasher.

“The observation opens up clear directions for physicists at SMU and throughout the world to study the properties of the Higgs,” said SMU physicist Ryszard Stroynowski, a principal investigator in the search for the Higgs and the leader of SMU’s team from the Department of Physics on the experiment.

The experimental physics group at SMU has been involved since 1994 and is a major contributor to this study.

“It tells us how the universe evolved from the original big bang into the creation of protons, neutrons, atoms and eventually us,” Stroynowski said.

Super-computing grid

Credit for the discovery goes not only to the scientists and to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, but also to a vast worldwide computing grid at partnering institutions. Physicists rely on supercomputers to assist their analysis of the massive flow of raw data containing the Higgs.

The SMU High-Performance Computing system is part of that grid and routinely runs data that contributed to the observation, Stroynowski said.

Discovery of the new particle demonstrates the importance of basic research, said James Quick, associate vice president for research at SMU and dean of graduate studies.

“SMU is proud and excited that its Department of Physics has been an active participant in this effort and looks forward to the department’s continued participation at CERN,” he said. “Launched by a federal research project sponsored by Congressman Pete Sessions, high-performance computing at SMU played a role in the Higgs discovery and is a primary focus in the university’s drive to expand research and enhance education.”

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