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Northeastern hosts two international physics conferences

More than 400 physicists from around the world converged on Northeastern over the past week to participate in two major conferences on the search for an understanding of the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe.

“We are on the edge of a revolution in particle physics,” says Pran Nath, Matthews Distinguished Professor of Physics and organizer of the 17th International Conference on Supersymmetry and Unification of Fundamental Interactions (Susy09), held at the Curry Student Center from June 5 to 10.

An earlier workshop, held from June 2 to 4, called Beyond the Standard Model Physics and LHC Signatures attracted 150 experts in LHC (Large Hadron Collider) physics. The LHC is the world’s largest, highest-energy particle accelerator, which scientists hope will soon allow them to collide opposing particle beams.

Nath explains, “We have a large instrument, the Large Hadron Collider, which collides protons coming in opposite directions at the speed of light. Physicists are hoping to recreate the Big Bang when the collider starts operation in Geneva, Switzerland, later this year.”

Peter Jenni, spokesperson for the LHC project and the ATLAS Collaboration—the group of experts who design, construct and use the LHC—keynoted the Susy09 conference kickoff in the Curry Center Ballroom.

Speaking to a capacity audience, Jenni described the excitement that is building in the physics community as the giant collider is readied to come on line in October. Ultimately, he said, “our goal is to produce as many as one billion collisions per second.”

Detailing milestones and showing photographs of the equipment, Jenni described the project as “one of the most ambitious and challenging projects in science.”

At Northeastern, the convergence of hundreds of top physicists from around the globe was a monumental occasion, especially for Nath, who started the supersymmetry conference 17 years ago.

“I saw that supersymmetry was going to be big field,” he says, “and I thought there were so many people working all around the world who would want to assemble and discuss the science of particle physics, which attempts to explain the creation of the universe.”

Other speakers at Susy09 included Bruno Zumino, physics professor at U.C. Berkeley and an originator of supersymmetry theory, and MIT’s Frank Wilczek, the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics and a Nobel laureate in physics.

“This is the leading conference in the world on physics beyond the standard model,” Nath says.

Today, he says, the experts who gathered on the Northeastern campus stand on the cusp of “a new golden age of physics.”