Steve Wasserbaech has a unique opportunity that few will ever experience.
While his day job for the past several years has consisted of teaching varying levels of physics to the students of UVU, he recently took a chance to work with CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research, to help study breakthrough ideas in nuclear physics research.
CERN is a laboratory run by a council that is funded by several European governments. In 2008 Wasserbaech took the opportunity to apply for a year-long position which would allow him to conduct research at the laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans working on these experiments although they may not all be based here,” said Wasserbaech. “Only a small number get this kind of position, I have the opportunity to work in the laboratory.”
Wasserbaech’s involvement in the laboratory has allowed him to participate in several new experiments that could revolutionize the world of science and physics.
More recently he has worked on an instrument called the Large Hadron Collider, an accelerator used to study the smallest known particles, the building blocks of all things.
“The instrument is a particle accelerator designed to accelerate protons to the highest energy that has ever been achieved by humans,” said Wasserbaech. “Ultimately the scientific objective in particle physics is to understand the fundamental building blocks that all matter is made of, and we think we are beginning to understand what those are.”
Extensive research has been done using the instrument and physicists hope that new results can reveal more about the universe we live in. So far world-record levels in particle collisions have been achieved as a result of long tedious hours. Wasserbaech noted that these records will open up territory that has never been explored.
Wasserbaech is currently involved in a project called CMS, or Compact Muon Solenoid. For this project physicists will use a general-purpose detector to research a wide variety of physics.
“Scientifically it’s amazing to be a part of a historic type of experiment,” said Wasserbaech. “It isn’t very often that we open up a new particle physics facility like this and it’s always exciting to be part of it.”
Wasserbaech began his work at CERN in August 2009 and will remain on sabbatical leave through the end of the 2010 spring semester.