Purdue Calumet professor contributes to likely ‘God particle’ physics discovery

A Purdue University Calumet professor is part of the group of international physicist researchers who announced this week the observation of a new subatomic particle that enhances understanding about the natural universe.

Associate Professor of Physics Neeti Parashar, a Batavia, Ill. resident and Purdue Calumet faculty member since 2005, is among 6,000 research collaborators who contributed to Wednesday’s (7/4) announcement that the newly observed particle could be the elusive Higgs boson. The particle has been called by news media the “God particle” because of its assumed key role within the Standard Model of particle physics, which shapes understanding about the composition and interaction of all matter in the natural universe.

Parashar heads Purdue Calumet’s high energy physics program and since 2004 has conducted research with colleagues on the Compact Muon Solenoid at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), a multinational research center in Switzerland. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Parashar has managed most of her research efforts at Fermilab, a national high energy physics laboratory in Batavia, Ill.

Neeti Parashar

“The research of our group has focused primarily on the construction, testing, software development and validation for the Forward Pixel detector of the tracking chambers,” Parashar said. “When particles pass through this detector, a very precise resolution of the order of microns on the position of the interacting particle is provided. This is extremely critical to the search for the Higgs boson, the missing piece of the Standard Model.”

High energy physics, according to Parashar, responds to two fundamental questions: 1) Of what is matter comprised? and 2) What holds matter together?

Scientists believe the Higgs boson has existed since the time of the universe’s origin.

“Scientists now recreate those conditions of a very early universe in particle accelerators and study the existence of such phenomena via their decay products,” Parashar said. “In the proton-proton collisions at CERN, only about one collision per trillion will produce a Higgs boson. Therefore, the search for Higgs boson has been very tedious. The significance of confirming its existence will be very crucial to our understanding of the universe at the very basic level.”

She added that further studies and data are required to ascertain definitively if the newly discovered particle has the properties of the Higgs boson.