2 scientists stand by table with equipement, concrete shielding blocks in background
Two scientists working in the LHCb cavern.  Image courtesy of Syracuse University.

Syracuse University

We are members of the LHCb experiment. The collaboration has approximately 700 physicists, most of which are from Europe, Brazil or China. We are the only American group. The LHC is built to discover new physics. The ATLAS and CMS experiments will look directly for new particles. LHCb seeks to see the effects of these particles indirectly by how they change the decays of particles composed of the heavy b or c quarks. These “virtual” effects are crucial to classifying the new particles.

Our group has had a great deal of experience investigating the physics governing the weak decays of heavy quarks.  Under the auspices of the CLEO experiment, group members directed the data analysis that led to the discoveries of the B meson and the DS meson. We also have been involved in seeing the first evidence of many important processes such as decays of B mesons and b quarks. We intend to use our experience to look for the effects of new physics in analyzing LHCb data that will become available when the machine turns on. Our program includes measuring CP decays of the BS meson, as well as other rare decay channels.

Our efforts have also been directed toward the development and production of particle detection systems. In the past, we developed techniques and led the production of the CLEO III Ring Imaging Cherenkov detector. This detector relies on an optical effect similar to the “sonic boom” in supersonic planes: a charged particle moving faster than the speed of light in a medium produces an optical “shock wave” and measuring the wave angle we can infer the mass of the particle.

A rectangular green electronics board with a silver half-circle at the top and ribbons of golden electronics radiating from it
A module of the VELO detector. Image courtesy of Syracuse University

In LHCb, we have been working on several aspects of the experiment as we joined rather late in June of 2005. Our primary focus has been the VErtex LOcator (VELO). This detector is composed of short thin silicon strips and really is the heart of the experiment. It must reconstruct the decays of B mesons that move a few milimeters before decaying. As such its precision must be on the order of 1/100,000 meter.

Our group has been responsible for testing these detectors in external beams. We also have been working on designing a calibration system for the RICH detector in LHCb, the overall alignment of all the detector components, and monitoring which events we chose to keep. The latter is very important because the beams produce particles at a rate of about 20 million per second, yet only about 200 interactions are of interest to us.

Currently our group consists of four academic faculty, two research professors, four postdoctoral research associates and five graduate students. For more information including our “ask a particle physicist” web page see http://physics.syr.edu/hep/