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Getting ready for the Next Generation Science Standards? This e-Lab meets ALL NGSS science practices. See Standards link in the menu for listing.

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 e-Lab Summary

Students can join a scientific collaboration in this series of studies of high-energy collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. We are collaborating with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment to produce a student-led, teacher-guided project. We have authentic data from well over 200,000 proton-proton collision events in CMS. By using the web, students are able to analyze and share these data with fellow students and other researchers. Students write a researchable question and analyze data in much the same way as professional scientists. Tools from the e-Lab facilitate collaboration among students as they develop their investigations and report their results.

Students begin their investigation by watching a Cool Science video to get some insight into the context of their project. They can then use a variety of data exploration tools to perform studies and develop their own investigation. They can use the project milestones to gain some necessary background and guide their research. Also, they can record their work and reflect on their progress in their e-Logbook. Students post the results of their studies as online posters. The real scientific collaboration follows. Students can review the results of other studies online, comparing data and analyses. Using online tools, they can correspond with other research groups, post comments and questions, and participate in the part of scientific research that is often left out of classroom experiments.

These two posters, one that meets expectations, and one that exceeds expectations, can help guide teachers to set expectations for their own students and understand what students can accomplish.

 Introduction to CMS

The CMS detector studies proton-proton collisions from the LHC in search of new physics. Myriad particles are produced from these collisions and subsequent decays. By exploring the various subdetectors arrayed to detect these collision products and by attending to the crucial roles played by conservation of mass-energy, momentum and charge in event analysis, students are able to make sense of the plots particle physicists use to analyze collision data. They can in turn produce their own plots and use these to set up and pursue questions they themselves put to the data.

Visit the CMS website to get more background.

 Good Research Questions

What kinds of particles are produced in the proton-proton collisions inside the CMS detector? What are the smallest known particles? Students can pose a number of questions and then analyze the data for answers. Some answers are new to students but well answered by physicists. These include the smallest known particles, the kinds of particles that are produced in proton-proton collisions and how these produced particles interact with the detector. However, there are still many questions that the CMS collaboration hopes to address.

Students may be able to contribute insights to these efforts by looking at the data in fresh ways. What can they learn about the behavior of particles? About the CMS detector itself?

Examples of research questions correlated with the poster rubric are:

  • Exceeds Expectations: Does the width of the distribution of the Z signature in the dimuon mass spectrum vary as a function of transverse momentum?
  • Meets Expectations Do all portions of the detector report the same value for the mass of the Z boson?
  • Does not Meet Expectations: Can mini black holes be found in CMS data?

 Student Prior Knowledge and Skills

Before doing this project, students should know how to:

  • Make basic measurements.
  • Make basic calculations.
  • Interpret basic graphs.
  • Write a research question.
  • Make a research plan.

We provide refresher references for students who need to brush up on these skills. Students access these from "The Basics" section of the Project Map.

 Learner Outcomes and Assessment

Students will know and be able to:

  • Content and Investigation:
    • Describe particles colliding in and emerging from collisions detected by CMS as predicted by the Standard Model.
    • List in order and describe the CMS subdetectors in terms of the properties of the particles they detect.
    • Explain the role that conservation of mass/energy, momentum, and charge play in analyzing events detected at CMS.
    • Analyze data plots in order to extract and describe the physical meaning of any apparent features.
    • Design, conduct and report on an investigation of a testable hypothesis for which evidence can be provided using CMS data.
  • Process:
    • Explain the data collection process including what corrections need to be made in order to obtain reliable data.
    • Evaluate the data to decide which are reliable/usable and which are not and explain how they arrived at the decision to include some data and exclude others.
    • Collect, organize and analyze data to obtain meaningful findings.
    • Use the data to provide evidence to support their claims.
  • Computing:
    • Explain why they used specific computing resources in their analysis.
  • Literacy:
    • Demonstrate an ability to express meaning in writing (such as in science notebooks, reports) and come to agreement about meaning with others (such as peer review, discussion).

Assessment is aligned to learner outcomes. While many teachers will want to design their own assessments, we provide some options.

  • Rubrics: Content & Investigation, Process, Computing, Literacy and Poster
  • Tests: Pre- and post-tests of content knowledge and reporting tools for student results.
  • e-Logbooks: Track progress and provide feedback on student work.
    Review student evidence of what they know/understand and reflections on their research.
    Review all student entries for a particular milestone—e.g., describe CMS physics—and make notes in your teacher's logbook for next year. Look at this sample logbook.
  • Milestone Seminars: Check student understanding before they move from one section of the project milestones to another.

 Suggestions for Getting Started

Students can start with simple studies and then increase the sophistication. Initial investigations might include finding the mass of the Z boson and seeing how many particle "bumps" they can find in the dimuon and dielectron mass spectra. They can then see the effects of various cuts on the data. How is the J/Psi mass plot affected by including only events with two "global" muon tracks? How does a high transverse momentum cut affect the results of a plot? How about varying eta, the pseudorapidity?

Students can also probe the performance of the detector. Are the distribution momenta and energies uniform as angle phi around the beampipe is varied? At what value of eta do they maximize, and where do they disappear? Why?

Finally, students and teachers alike should browse the posters in the e-Lab for research ideas. How can you follow up on an interesting study? Do you trust the conclusions of the poster, and can you test them in new ways? Most importantly, what someone else has studied can give an idea about how to pursue what that person did not.

   Navigating Students Through the e-Lab

 Help Desk & Sharing Ideas

Use the Help Desk Form to get technical assistance from our staff. Click on the lifesaver icon in the upper right hand corner of the teacher pages when you are logged in.
Be sure to click on Share Ideas to see what other teachers have shared in Facebook. They may have the answers to your questions. You may have answers to theirs! Maybe you want to collaborate on a study.

 e-Lab Technology Requirements

Relax! The e-Lab requires Javascript and Plug-ins enabled in your Web browser. Most browsers default to these settings.

  • If Javascript is not enabled, you will see a message on the student home page and at the top of this page.
  • If Plug-ins are not enabled, you won't see the Flash movie on the student home page.

Ask your tech support person if you need help with browser settings. The Resources in the Library and the background material may include YouTube videos and java applets, but these are not critical for using the e-Lab.