Particle Physics Summer School

A FREE three day residential summer school introducing pupils aged 14-15 to Particle Physics, Science and Engineering was held at St Paul’s School in July 2019.

The course is organised and run in partnership between St Paul’s School, the Institute of Physics and Queen Mary University of London. It brings to life the complex subject of particle physics by showing the importance of the field across the sciences, engineering and computer science. We explore the subject through workshops and lectures which also demonstrate the importance of research to the way we live our lives as well as highlighting the broad range of exciting careers available in the field.

The course will comprise of talks, lectures, question and answer sessions and importantly hands-on experiments (some that they may never meet at school, and some that they will definitely not meet at school!). Small groups of students will be allocated an A-Level student mentor who will take them to each of the activities and encourage them to question and investigate as a group. Evenings will be informal but involve challenges, a quiz and an invited talk.

The residential aspect will give the students time to absorb the information, get to know other people from across the country and be part of an academic ‘conference’ environment.

Delegates will stay in the school’s boarding house with a full pastoral care package and all meals and refreshments are included.

This unique conference is open to 24 state school pupils from across the UK and the course is free to attend. A maximum of three pupils from any one school may attend and places will be allocated on the basis of a simple application form requiring a short statement from both pupils and teachers. We would encourage pupils with a keen interest in STEM and particle physics in particular to apply.


Students attending the summer school are split into four different groups, each representing a particle physics experiment that is actively researching today. You’ll find information on the four experiments below

The 27-km Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built, it is located at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland. It accelerates protons to nearly the velocity of light — in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions — and then collides them at four locations around its ring. At these points, the energy of the particle collisions gets transformed into mass, spraying particles in all directions.

ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) is at one of these four locations and is a particle detector experiment. The experiment is designed to take advantage of the unprecedented energy available at the LHC and observe phenomena that involve highly massive particles which were not observable using earlier lower-energy accelerators.

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment is one of two large general-purpose particle physics detectors built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland and France. The goal of CMS experiment is to investigate a wide range of physics, including the search for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter.

Super-Kamiokande (semi-abbreviation of full name: Super-Kamioka Neutrino Detection Experiment, also abbreviated to Super-K or SK; Japanese: スーパーカミオカンデ) is a neutrino observatory located under Mount Ikeno near the city of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. It is located 1,000 m (3,300 ft) underground in the Mozumi Mine in Hida’s Kamioka area. The observatory was designed to detect high-energy neutrinos to search for proton decay, study solar and atmospheric neutrinos, and keep watch for supernovae in the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) was a neutrino observatory located 2100 m underground in Vale’s Creighton Mine in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The detector was designed to detect solar neutrinos through their interactions with a large tank of heavy water. SNO is currently being upgraded to become SNO+, a physics experiment designed to search for neutrinoless double beta decay, with secondary measurements of proton–electron–proton (pep) solar neutrinos, geoneutrinos from radioactive decays in the Earth, and reactor neutrinos.


The lectures will all be held in lab P3 and will be delivered by academics and PhD students from Queen Mary University of London. The Particle Physics Research Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy conducts internationally recognised research across many different fields of particle physics.

Below is a short outline of each of the lectures that will be given during the summer school.

A journey through the world of particle accelerators – Dr Ulla Blumenschein
Controlled acceleration of particles is crucial in order to progress further in our understanding of the fundamental laws of forces and matter.  The lecture describes the fascinating journey through a century of accelerators of increasing power. The first generation of electrostatic devices, using huge voltage multipliers, were soon not sufficient anymore and  accelerators with oscillating fields took over, culminating in our current most powerful circular synchrotrons which ramp electrons, protons or heavy atomic nuclei up to extremely high energies.  Strong magnetic fields are created to keep the particles on track, fed by huge currents running through superconducting coils, and precise and extremely fast controls stabilize the particles.

Particle Detectors – Dr Allison Elliot
Modern detectors are sophisticated, layered, instrumented, and often enormous machines. They are designed to detect, track, and identify particles as they go through the material inside. Different materials behave differently in the presence of different particles. This talk will go through the simple examples of particle detectors, such as spark counters and GM tubes, and particle trackers, like bubble and cloud chambers, and show that modern detectors are built on the same principles.

Particle Physics in the Wider World – Prof. Peter Kalmus, OBE
Particle physics is concerned with the nature and properties of the ultimate building blocks of the universe and the forces through which they interact. There are links with cosmology. However there are practical applications of the particles, and spin-offs from the techniques that were and are being developed. Particle physicists were at the forefront of international cooperation across widely different political ideologies. Students of particle physics have skills which lead to a large variety of jobs. A few examples of these various topics will be given.

The Higgs Boson and Beyond – Dr Seth Zenz
The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN was not only the first great success at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), it also opened the door for the next generation of discoveries. What is the Higgs boson, and now that we have found it, what comes next? There are many ideas for new particles beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, which may both connect to observations in the wider universe such as Dark Matter and may be possible to observe at the LHC. The Higgs boson itself can also be used as a tool for discovering “cracks” in the Standard Model.

Neutrino Oscillation and CP Violation – Dr Mark Stringer
Neutrinos are the second most ubiquitous particles in the universe. Billions of neutrinos are passing through your body every second. Fortunately, these elusive particles do not interact very much. A single neutrino can pass through a light year of lead and only interact 50% of the time. In this lecture, I will describe the large detectors used to detect neutrinos and the important physics discoveries made. I will discuss the physics of neutrino oscillation, the phenomena in which a neutrino produced can change type as it moves through the universe. I will also detail CP violation in the neutrino sector.