For two University of Florida physicists, being part of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, commonly referred to as the "God particle,'' is just the beginning.
"It is very exciting, a culmination of a lot of work," said one of them, Darin Acosta. "A few weeks ago … I saw the first glimpses of our experiment's data, and I knew we had something."
Acosta, 47, and Andrey Korytov, 49, played a large part in getting one of the major particle collision detectors online and leading aspects of the project at CERN, the multinational research center headquartered in Geneva for more than 17 years.
Acosta and Korytov are part of a 40-person team at UF consisting of faculty members, researchers and graduate students — as well as a handful of undergraduates — who have been searching for the particle.
On Wednesday, hours after the announcement of the discovery was made at a conference in Australia, the Tampa Bay Times spoke to Acosta and Korytov via Skype.
In the wake of CERN's announcement, how do you feel? What were your first thoughts when the team realized you might have discovered the Higgs boson?
Korytov: We already suspected there was something there. We did analysis last year and we coined the term "tantalizing hint." This year, we added last year and this year's data and it becomes very significant. It was intense. It was a very exciting moment when we realized we all had the same data. After that, it's just madness because you have to cross check everything. There's no sense of celebration. You don't have time to dwell on it. Over the last two weeks, we slept maybe four hours a night on average, sometimes one or two.
Do you incorporate the research you've done with Higgs boson into coursework? Are students involved in any way with the project, from UF or elsewhere?
Acosta: I use examples from our experiment in my lectures for electricity and magnetism. And I have undergraduate students participate in my research along with graduate students.
Korytov: I teach basic physics, I and II. Then I teach graduate-level courses in contemporary physics and that's all about what we do right now in physics. It's the students discovering them. I'm just guiding them a little bit in the right direction. The actual work is done by students and post docs.
What is your role in this project going forward?
Acosta: We have more data to analyze as the collider continues running this year. I will continue managing the electronics project to handle the increased deluge of data, and working with UF students studying the Higgs properties.
Korytov: We still need to produce a paper to show exactly how it was done so people can review it. July 9 is the deadline to have the paper done. It's a race against time. The party is over, and with more data will come more papers.