(KUTV) — A high school science team of 8 from Salt Lake City became the first American group to win an international competition in particle physics.
The West High School team was one of two winners in the 2019 Beamline for Schools competition, a contest requiring students to submit a proposal for an experiment that uses a beamline.
Ben Jones, the assistant principal at West, said in a prepared statement:
This is the first time an American student team has won this prestigious competition, and we are proud of the program at West High School which brought these great kids together to win the prize. It's a major academic accomplishment for Utah and for America.
According to CERN, a beamline delivers a stream of subatomic particles to any given set, which makes it possible to study a broad variety of properties and processes in various scientific disciplines.
In October, West High's "DESY Chain" and the other winner — Netherlands' "Particle Peers" — were invited to visit the DESY research center in Hamburg, Germany, to carry out their proposed experiments with scientists from CERN and DESY, expanding their minds more by looking at the fundamental differences between matter and antimatter.
DESY Chain focused their proposal on the properties of scintillators, which are materials used for particle detection. The students aim to study the performance of these scintillators and compared their sensitivity to electrons and positrons, which may lead to more efficient particle detectors for a wide range of applications, according to a press release published by CERN.
The experiment by the students was advised by University of Utah professors Charlie Jui and Pearl Sandick.
"We're really proud of our West students," said Jui in a news release. "They worked hard and it shows in the recognition they've received. I'm really stoked about their win!"
Because of the second Long Shutdown of CERN's accelerators for maintenance and upgrade, there's currently no beam at CERN, which opened up opportunities to explore partnerships with other laboratories, such as DESY.
“I’m so excited by the prospect of working at DESY this autumn, it’s such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said August Muller from DESY Chain.
I’m proud to be a part of the first USA team to win the BL4S competition, especially because it provides access to equipment and systems I would otherwise never have dreamt of even seeing.
Since Beamline for Schools was launched in 2014, almost 10,000 students from 84 countries have participated. This year, 178 teams from 49 countries submitted proposals.