CERN Accelerating science

Laura Elaine Bruce

This summer was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I spent 9 weeks at CERN as an NMS Summer Student, and it was unforgettable. I was first assigned my summer project, “Hunting for New Physics with Improved Tests of Lepton Flavor Universality (LFU) at HL-LHC” with the ATLAS Data Processing subsection of the Experimental Physics Department, and it definitely challenged my knowledge and skills in physics. I didn’t have much experience coding in ROOT or upper-level statistics, and I honestly did not know what LFU was until last May. I’ve learned it makes all non-physicists’ eyes glaze over. LFU is a fundamental axiom of the Standard Model, meaning that the leptons have the same coupling or interaction strength to the bosons. To test this axiom, we measure the ratio of branching fractions of W boson decays into tau and light (electron, muon) leptons. If the branching ratios are equal and the overall ratio is one, then the experimental data agrees with Standard Model predictions. However, if the overall ratio has a five-sigma deviation, we will have discovered New Physics beyond the Standard Model. I gained a lot of new skills, and it turned out to be a terrific project. I got to present a poster to fellow CERN collogues and a potential donor for funding of NMS summer students, and a presentation to the HL-LHC ATLAS collaboration. It was so cool! I also attended the CERN Summer Student lecture series, which covered everything from detector design to theoretical tools of particle physics, and it was phenomenal.

But I think the best part of this summer was meeting all the other CERN summer students. We went hiking around Switzerland during the weekends including Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. It got really cold at night at least according to my Louisiana, USA standards, but I met some people from Siberia who thought 5o Celsius is a nice summer breeze. I still cannot get over that. We observed the night sky with a visible Milky Way galaxy and several shooting stars. I also frequented Lake Geneva quite often after work and visited Gruyere, Chamonix, and Montreux as well as the ATLAS, CMS, and ALICE experiments. I gained many new friends and perspectives, and now, I am even more determined to pursue an academic career in science. This summer beat all of my wildest expectations of what CERN is about. In the spirit of CERN’s iconic sculpture of stainless-steel ribbons, I hope this is just the beginning of my journey to “Wandering the Immeasurable.”