While at CERN during the summer of 2013, MIT senior Christian Ferko was able to work at the cutting edge of experimental particle physics. Christian analyzed data from the Large Hadron Collider to look for evidence of the production of dark matter. This hypothetical type of matter has been predicted by physicists based on astrophysical evidence, but it has never been directly observed. For this reason, dark matter is considered one of the most important unsolved puzzles in physics today.
Dark matter particle
Christian worked alongside other physicists and MIT undergraduates to test whether this mysterious dark matter particle could be produced in collisions at the LHC. To do this, he needed to determine what sort of characteristics such particles would have, and then accurately estimate how many events with these characteristics might be produced by other, well-understood processes. If the observed number of events is much higher than this estimate, we can be confident that dark matter particles are being observed.
In addition to his analysis work, Christian also helped to upgrade the Data Acquisition system for the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the detectors at the LHC. This involved testing several new pieces of electronics and installing many fiber optic cables which allow for faster data transmission. These upgrades will help to bring the CMS up to speed so that it is ready to collect data when the LHC begins to run again in 2015.