The National Science Foundationâ€™s (NSF) Elementary Particle Program awarded a California State University, Fresno professor with a $460,000 grant to work at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The grant will cover the salary, benefits and travel of Fresno state physics professor Yonsheng Gao, Ph.D. and faculty member Harinder Bawa, Ph.D., who is involved in his postdoctoral fellowship, while they work with ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus). The program also involves several students from Fresno State and other CSU campuses.
Gaoâ€™s program has received over $300,000 from Fresno State to support the students over the past two summers as they work with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Approximately 8,000 scientists from 85 countries are involved in research at CERN.
â€œThe students, when they work at CERN, they collaborate with physicists from all over the world,â€ Gao said. â€œThey work with ATLAS projects and give presentations. This is a very exciting research experience for students.â€
Gao, who will commute between Fresno State and Geneva, said that the grant puts Fresno State in very prestigious company, including schools such as Harvard, Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Fresno State physics professor Douglas Singleton, Ph.D., has been involved in collaborating with and reaching out to other universities. He mentioned how uncommon such a grant is at the CSU level.
â€œIf you look around the university, or around any CSU, not too many people get research grants for half a million dollars,â€ Singleton said. â€œItâ€™s really a great thing.â€
He was very pleased with Gaoâ€™s ability to secure such a high profile grant.
â€œIâ€™ll have to go to my thesaurus to see how many ways I can say â€˜great,â€™ or â€˜good,â€™ but it is,â€ Singleton said. â€œThe science that he is doing is world-class.â€
The LHC is a particle accelerator that sits in a tunnel with a 17-mile circumference and approximately 570 feet underground. It is the largest of its kind at about six stories tall, according to Gao.
The LHC re-creates the scenario of the Big Bang Theory, which Gao described as â€œa little Big Bang.â€ The idea is to study what matter comes from the collision of particles, as well as other new physics scenarios.
Lawrence Carlson, a double major in mathematics and physics, has also been involved with CERN over the past three years. He said that Gaoâ€™s grant will allow students interested in physics to have a direct relation with someone who has been involved with the LHC.
â€œBy having somebody stay full time, it gives us an inside track,â€ Carlson said.
While in Geneva, Carlson was responsible for designing a monitoring tool for variables inside the detector of the LHC, and he is currently designing a tool to predict the behavior of particles inside the accelerator.
As part of the NSF Elementary Particle Physics program, the Fresno State physics program will have the opportunity to renew the $460,000 grant every three years. There are additional funding opportunities that come with being involved with this community.
The U.S. ATLAS management suggested that Fresno State serve as the lead institution with eight subcontractors, including schools like Columbia University and New York University. This proposal would award Fresno State with more than $1 million, according to Gao.
â€œWeâ€™ll know by the end of the year if it will be funded or not,â€ Gao said.