Purdue Calumet professor contributes to Nobel Prize-winning effort

Nobel Prize in Physics     

Tuesday morning’s (10/8) announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics initiated a day of historical and unprecedented celebration at Purdue University Calumet for one of its own: Professor of Physics Neeti Parashar.

Worldwide team       

Theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert received the Nobel for their work developing the theory of the Higgs field, which prompted discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle by a team of worldwide researchers, including Professor Parashar.

The eight-year Purdue Calumet faculty member and recent recipient of 2012-13 Outstanding Scholar and Teacher awards of the university Professor Neeti Parashardiscussed her role as a collaborator on the Higgs boson research team during a campus news conference this afternoon (10/8).    

The discovery of Higgs boson, also referred to as the “God particle,” has been touted as a vital building block for shaping understanding about the composition and interaction of all matter in the natural universe.

“Being part of a discovery leading to a Nobel Prize is absolutely exhilarating,” Parashar, a Munster resident and formerly of Batavia, Ill., said. “While I have been working on the experiment that co-jointly discovered the Higgs boson with another experiment since 2004, I never imagined that I would be a part of something at this elite level of scientific endeavor. In my opinion, this discovery is a crowning achievement of the century.”

Confirmed last March

The discovery of what was believed to be the Higgs boson was announced in July, 2012 and confirmed last March.    

At Purdue Calumet, Parashar heads the university’s high energy physics program. Since 2004, she has conducted research with colleagues on the Compact Muon Solenoid at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), a multinational research center in Switzerland. Overall, she has engaged in research relating to the discovery since 1997.

Parashar contributed to the discovery with some 6,000 research collaborators, including nearly 2,000 physicists from 89 United States universities and seven U.S. Department of Energy laboratories. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Parashar has managed most of her research efforts and those of several, assisting Purdue Calumet students at Fermilab, a national high energy physics facility in Batavia, Ill. 

Student assistance

“My research teams . . . have contributed to the construction of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, developed software programs to run subsystems and analyzed data from the proton-proton collisions,” she said. “Our students have done a phenomenal job in leading efforts single-handedly, such as (being) ‘responsible for Tracker Validation. . .’” 

Parashar refers to the Higgs boson discovery as “a fundamental ingredient in the theory of particle physics, called the Standard Model.” Continuing, she said, “The theory predicts that the Higgs boson is responsible for the origin of mass. . . The discovery of the Higgs boson has not only confirmed the accuracy of the Standard Model, but remarkably enhanced our scientific understanding about the nature of our universe.

“In short,” she added, “if Higgs did not exist, we would not exist.”

To be honored in D.C.

Parashar, accompanied by Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas L. Keon, is scheduled to be honored with other U.S. particle physicists in Washington, D.C. Oct. 23 by members of Congress and the scientific community. 

The Higgs boson discovery climaxes five decades of effort by a contingent of international physicists and engineers.  

In a news release issued by CERN, Brookhaven National Laboratory Director Doon Gibbs, said, “It’s wonderful to see a 50-year-old theory confirmed after decades of hard work and remarkable ingenuity. The U.S. has played a key role contributing scientific and technical expertise along with essential computing and data analysis capabilities . . . It’s a privilege to share in the success of an experiment that has changed the face of science.”

According to Parashar, “Finding the Higgs was the last missing piece of the Standard Model of particle physics. This is a fundamental science area where we try to find clues to answer questions related to how our universe was created.”

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Related links

Fermilab announcement

Nobel Prize web site

Frequently asked questions about the Higgs boson