LIV.DAT students participated in the STFC Summer School for Particle Physics

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Credit: G. Altmann/Pixabay

High energy particle physics postgraduate students from across the country gathered for the first ever online STFC ”summer” school this spring. The school ran from the 15th to the 26th of March, offering an invaluable experience to all involved. Live-streamed lectures provided an opportunity to expand our breadth of knowledge beyond that at undergraduate level, and a series of daily zoom based tutorials allowed the consolidation of this knowledge and provided a chance to discuss some of the more difficult aspects of the content with lecturers and academics. 

The two week period was broken into a series of six lecture courses; Quantum field theory, quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, collider phenomenology, dark matter and the standard model. The courses were run by experts in the field from different universities across the UK from London to Edinburgh and everywhere in between. The livestream lecture format gave students the opportunity to ask questions through an inbuilt chat function that the lecturer (or other students) could then answer in tow.

After the daily lectures, poster sessions were held in which every student was expected to present. This allowed for cross-collaboration discussion of experiments across the breadth of high-energy and particle physics, and gave an interesting insight into the direction of research ranging from muon physics to dark matter. These sessions also provided an opportunity for students to ask questions straight to the experts, consolidating their knowledge in the field further than the lecture courses. This was complimented by the fact that major collaborations released results during the time period of the course, leading to those students that worked on these experiments to provide fascinating insight into them.

The move online made socialising a unique challenge; but not one that could not be overcome. Within minutes of our introductory lecture, a slack group and discord were made to allow for socialisation for everybody involved in the school. A number of chat channels on slack were created for discussion of each lecture series, discussion of work between tutorial groups and to ensure that members of marginalised groups felt included throughout the school. With these avenues of socialisation open to us, we managed to recreate a virtual pub night (complete with a jukebox!) and a pub quiz with random groups, ensuring the conversations spanned outside of our ordinary friendship groups and collaborations.

With the necessity to move the school online, the course had many different challenges compared to previous years. Lecturers and students alike found life outside the school was more difficult to put on hold, and the change in format was jarring in some areas. However, with difficulty comes growth, and many excellent changes were proposed from the student body during a dedicated session, in both terms of accessibility and understanding, which we hope will not only improve future online events but the structure and functioning of the school overall.

Eight University of Liverpool students, including LIV.DAT students Antony Hibbert, Conor McPartland and Jaiden Parlone, attended this year’s event as well as academic Dr Nikolaos Rompotis who served as a tutor in both weeks. Overall the school provided a good opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge of theoretical physics and to meet other students and discuss each other’s research. 

More information can be found on the event webpage.