Skip to main content

International Masterclass on Particle Physics

On March 22, Durham University's Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) hosted the International Masterclass on Particle Physics—a hands-on event where high school students analysed real data from the Minerva neutrino detector. Over one hundred students from six local high schools—Durham Johnston, Durham Sixth Form, Newcastle High School for Girls, Thirsk School and Sixth Form, Wellfield Academy, and Sunderland Sixth Form—participated in the event.

Following a hiatus over COVID, Jessica Turner, a particle physicist in the IPPP, revived the Masterclass, with this edition focusing on neutrino physics. This masterclass offered the students the chance to delve into the Minerva experiment, a neutrino scattering project based at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the USA.

The event was designed to immerse students in the role of neutrino physicists for a day. The morning session kicked off with introductory activities, including a lively particle physics card game facilitated by IPPP outreach researcher, Francesco Sergio. Subsequently, Jessica Turner, Yuber Perez-Gonzalez, and Aidin Masouminia delivered enlightening talks on the universe's nature, neutrinos, and neutrino detection methods. Lunch was served on the Calman Learning Centre's top floor, offering amazing views of Durham Cathedral. After lunch, the students embarked on the day's highlight: a hands-on session analysing real Minerva datasets. They analysed many neutrino events observed by the neutrino experiment Minerva to find the “signal” among the “background”. This was a great success, and through their collaborative work, the students accurately estimated the size of the Carbon nucleus from the data. The computer rooms were abuzz with activity as students engaged in analysis, aided by IPPP PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. This fostered an atmosphere of collaboration and enthusiasm that carried into a Q&A session with IPPP's PhD students.

A special feature of the event was a video call with neutrino physicists at Fermilab, which allowed students to explore the experimental setup and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the scientists. The day concluded with the presentation of attendance certificates, warm farewells, and handshakes. A group photo captured the collective spirit of the participants, leaving organisers eager to plan next year’s event.