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News > Old Girl in Focus > Katie Piper studies particles to help answer questions about the universe

Katie Piper studies particles to help answer questions about the universe

17 May 2022
United Kingdom | Switzerland
Old Girl in Focus
Katie Piper at CERN
Katie Piper at CERN

In 2020 I completed my Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Surrey, and last year, I finished my Master's degree in Physics at the University of Leeds. I found the topics I learned about at university extremely fascinating, which has made me want to know more and I’m now doing a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics.

For my PhD, I am working on the ATLAS experiment at The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). At CERN, in The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), beams of particles are accelerated close to the speed of light and then collide at the centre of the ATLAS detector. These collisions cause new particles to form, which fly out from the collision point in many different directions. We can then study these new particles to help answer fundamental questions about the universe!

My own work currently involves two main things. Firstly, I am part of a team analysing data to try and find a particle known as a 'Heavy Neutral Lepton'. My other main task focuses on software for the part of the detector responsible for filtering through all the collisions and deciding which we should save data on. Although up to 1.7 billion collisions a second could happen in the detector, only some of these may contain interesting physics. In September 2022, I will be moving to Geneva in Switzerland (where CERN is based) for a year as part of my PhD. Whilst living there, I will be able to work shifts in the ATLAS experiment control room, which will be very exciting.

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