Post-grad stories: Karoline Selbach, Particle Physics Experiment group

Karoline Selbach is a PhD student in the Particle Physics Experiment group of the Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics. Here she writes about researching the Higgs boson and explaining the mystery of music.

My particle physics work involves research into the Higgs boson at CERN, the major international research institution close to Geneva in Switzerland. I am part of the ATLAS experiment, which is the largest detector operating underground at the LHC accelerator.

The discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson (see previous article) was a fundamental breakthrough and marks the start of a new era in particle physics. My aim is to determine the characteristics (eg the mass) of the Higgs boson as precisely as possible. In particular, I’m looking for two Z bosons as the decay products of the Higgs boson. These fundamental neutral particles decay into electrons and muons which our detector can measure extremely well.

Research at CERN

For this rapidly developing work, I am currently fully immersed in the research on-site at CERN (funded by the School of Physics & Astronomy), maximising my contribution to the analysis by writing publications and presenting the results. I won the 2nd year prize for a poster summarising my research.

The current ATLAS detector is performing very well, providing unprecedented insights into our subatomic world. However, to increase the density of particle collisions even further beyond the previous limits, the detector will need to undergo adjustments. To realise this as efficiently as possible, I have also worked on simulating possible detector upgrades of the ATLAS detector. It is a great honour to represent the University in a high-profile international project, discussing and interacting intensely to push back scientific boundaries.

Musical Acoustics

Besides this high-profile research, I also teach undergraduate students at the University of Edinburgh. In my final school years, I studied music in Cologne and worked as a choirmaster and organist for five years. I now deliver a lecture series in Musical Acoustics and run frequency spectrum analysis projects with Music and Physics students. This separate career activity is supported by a Principal’s Career Development PhD Scholarship, which is designed to support research students by integrating research, training and career development.

My teaching brings together a variety of different students who are hooked into Musical Acoustics. Working with students is very inspiring and I enjoy explaining concepts to them. It is very fulfilling to see them evolve by mastering their assignments. In recognition of my teaching work, I was recently made an associate fellow of the Higher Education Academy.