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UK News from CERN Issue 70

 

Issue 70 contents

Select Committee Members

"Exceptional intrinsic value"

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This is the verdict of the Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.

3d display of ATLAS

Contacts to contracts

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“I came on the trip to open new markets” says John Townsend taking part in UK@CERN, a recent event to help UK industry do business with CERN.

Welsh teachers

Top of the class

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“The whole place is exciting!” says Paula Colebrook from Basseleg School in Newport.

Large Hadron Collider

CERN in 3d

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BBC Click features CERN as you’ve never seen it before!

Graeme Burt

Imaging cancer through collaboration

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A new collaboration is aiming to improve the accuracy of cancer treatments.


 

"Exceptional intrinsic value"

Select Committee Members

Select Committee Members in the LHC tunnel with CERN’s Head of Beams, Paul Collier
(Credit: S Hills)

 

This is the verdict of the Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee following the Committee’s recent visit to CERN.

A packed agenda included visits and the opportunity to meet members of the UK community at CERN. With a good balance of senior scientists and engineers, as well as technician fellows, early career researchers and a school from Belfast, the five MPs from the Committee were able to get a sense of the importance of CERN to the UK research community.

It was the Committee’s first overseas visit, and the willingness to commit a day and a half of their busy schedules to travel to Geneva emphasised their interest in UK participation in CERN.

Commenting on CERN once back in the UK, Valerie Vaz MP said “it’s one of the most fantastic inspirational places you could ever want to be” and the Committee Chair, Nicola Blackwood MP added “we’re all quite excited about our recent visit to CERN!”

Arriving in the late afternoon, the MPs were whisked straight from Geneva airport to visit the LHC tunnel in the company of Paul Collier (CERN). The visit proved to be an excellent scene-setter for the rest of the trip with the group asking lots of questions that demonstrated their curiosity to know more about how the machine worked, as well as more strategic questions about the UK’s relationship with CERN. Questions and discussions continued over an informal dinner with members of the university community and CERN staff.

The following morning the Committee Members were able to appreciate the sheer scale and engineering excellence of the LHC experiments with a visit to ATLAS and the chance to meet early career researchers from universities in or near their constituencies. This local connection is important – CERN may be in Switzerland, but it is the UK’s national laboratory for particle physics, and relevant to every region of the UK.

From ATLAS, the group moved on to the complexities of designing new magnets for future accelerator projects, and discovering how UK companies are supplying components that are part of innovative prototypes.

To complete the LHC story, the Committee Members visited the Data Centre to gain an appreciation of how CERN manages the deluge of data generated by colliding the beams of particles in the experiments.

Whilst UK membership of CERN is managed by STFC, this isn’t the only research council funding UK involvement in the experiments; antimatter research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Committee visited the ALPHA experiment with Niels Madsen (Swansea).

Over lunch, there was the opportunity to meet senior members of the UK community before meeting students from Belfast High School in CERN’s hands-on science lab. The students were in the middle of building cloud chambers to detect cosmic rays and the MPs compared notes about their tours of CERN; there was a general consensus that it’s a very inspiring place!

The programme ended with a visit to the Synchrocyclotron and a round-table discussion with early career engineers, technicians and physicists. A number of topics were raised including the need for longer post-doctoral positions that would have a particular impact on female researchers. The discussion clearly gave the Members food for thought as they have already mentioned some of the issues at other events in Westminster.

The level of enthusiasm was not only due to the variety of inspiring science and engineering that the MPs were able to see, but also to the members of the UK community that they met – all 41 of them - each and every one made an important contribution to the success of the visit.

STFC will now be following up on some of the points that were made during the visit and responding to further questions that the Committee raises.

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Contacts to contracts

Holoxica Ltd demonstrated its 3d display of ATLAS during the UK@CERN industry event
(Credit: Holoxica Ltd)

 

“I came on the trip to open new markets” says John Townsend of Telesoft Technologies. John was taking part in UK@CERN, a recent event to help UK industry do business with CERN. Delegates from 27 UK companies hoped to make contacts and win contracts as part of the STFC and UKTI initiative.

John is hoping that his one-to-one meetings will see Telesoft Technologies’ packet processing cards help CERN and the LHC experiment collaborations manage their big data faster. The company has never supplied CERN before, but their products are ideally suited to the data management challenges associated with large scale science facilities.

“It’s been a really good exercise,” says Paul Hulse from Torkington Engineers Ltd. The company is already supplying CERN and Paul is confident that this visit will increase the number and frequency of orders for high precision CNC, turning and milling, and especially the exotic materials that the company can supply. He’s also hoping to do business with one of the other companies taking part in UK@CERN – it’s only 25 miles down the road from his company, and together they could design and make components, opening up the possibility of new markets.

What makes the format of the event so successful is the time and energy that UKTI’s Eleanor Baha and STFC’s Industrial Liaison team put into identifying potential CERN customers and matching their needs to the visiting companies.

Visualisation is always easier in 3d. Javid Khan of Holoxia Ltd was one of the UK industry delegates at CERN to showcase his company’s holographic displays. His demo shows a 3d image of the ATLAS experiment suitable for an exhibition space, but his products also have applications for visualising CT, MRI and ultrasound images as well as complex engineering designs. Like the other delegates on the visit, Javid had one-to-one meetings arranged by UKTI and STFC with CERN project leaders who are likely to need this kind of imaging technology in the near future.

Experience shows that this targeted approach really works. If you would like to supply CERN or any of the other big international science projects in which the UK is a partner, start by talking to STFC’s Industrial Liaison team.

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Top of the class

Welsh teachers

Welsh teachers
(Credit: S Hills)

 

“The whole place is exciting!” says Paula Colebrook from Basseleg School in Newport. Paula is one of 24 teachers from Welsh schools who recently took part in the CERN Teacher Programme.

This is the second time that CERN has offered a dedicated professional development programme for Welsh Teachers; it’s supported by Lyn Evans (CERN) and the National STEM Learning Centre (NSLC). 16 teachers took part in the first programme, but word has clearly spread in the teaching community; Mark Langley (NSLC) manages the course and he is pleased to report that there is already a waiting list for the next one.

“There are roughly the same number of schools/students in Wales as in the Greater Manchester area. Thirty four teachers have now taken part in the programme so we are well on the way to ensuring that every physics teacher in Wales has been to CERN.”

That is a fantastic result – the initial course in 2015 was set up to address a rather shocking statistic that only one out of more than 1100 teachers who had taken part in the UK teacher programme was from a Welsh school.

“My students are really excited by CERN and the discovery of the Higgs boson. They’re really interested and have been asking me questions,” says David Eyles from Lewis School, Pengam. At the end of the four day course, David and the rest of the group had been brought right up-to-date with the very latest research in particle physics, and were able to build their own cloud chamber to detect cosmic rays.

Highlights of the course have been the tours and talks, and all of the teachers have enjoyed being back in the classroom. Being able to take time to focus on their own professional development has been greatly appreciated. Patricia Lynch of St Joseph’s School in Wrexham sums that up perfectly, “For a few days we’ve been submerged – we’ve been able to enjoy our physics!”

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CERN in 3d

Step inside the Large Hadron Collider (360 video) - BBC News
(Credit: BBC Click)

 

BBC Click features CERN as you’ve never seen it before!

In a world first, BBC TV's technology show Click has transmitted a fully 360-degree edition. The Producer wanted to feature intriguing locations as part of a wider exploration of existing 360 technology – where better than CERN! The programme included never-before-broadcast views of the LHC and CMS experiment. Open the link and use your mouse to explore!

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Imaging cancer through collaboration

Graeme Burt

Graeme Burt
(Credit: STFC)

 

A new collaboration is aiming to improve the accuracy of cancer treatments.

Engineers at Lancaster University working with scientists and clinicians at The University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and CERN, will develop a prototype ‘X-band linac structure’ that can be retro-fitted on proton beam therapy equipment, which is used in complex radiotherapy treatments at more than 50 hospitals around the world.

The technology will enable proton imaging of adults that can help improve the accuracy of proton therapy. Radiotherapy with protons is important in some cancer treatments as its greater treatment accuracy can reduce side effects, for example when treating some cancers in children. Whilst two new NHS proton treatment centres are under construction in the UK that will provide state-of-the-art treatments, the proton imaging based on this prototype will enable the most accurate pre-treatment images of patients, improving on the imaging used today which is based on X-ray imaging.

Proton imaging requires more energetic protons than are used in treatment, and which can pass right through the patient. A very small imaging dose of protons – much smaller than that used for treatment – travels through the part of the body that is to be imaged; measuring the energy lost on the way allows a picture of that volume to be taken using tomographic techniques. The remaining energy of the protons is measured to find out how much was lost on their way through the body. The project – called ‘PROBE: PROton Beam Extension for Imaging and Therapy’ project – will build a prototype of a novel high-frequency linac that can boost the energy of protons from the 250 Mega-electron volts (MeV) available from conventional medical cyclotrons to 350 MeV, sufficient for imaging all patients.

Graeme Burt (Lancaster) is the lead researcher on the 12-month project, “Proton imaging will increase the accuracy of proton treatments to under one millimetre, which really counts when treating tumours near sensitive organs.”

The new detector will fill a gap in the market as Hywel Owen (Manchester) explains, “Whilst detectors for proton imaging are now being developed by several research groups, there is as yet no compact and cost-effective method of providing the 350 MeV protons needed for adults. Bridging this gap is the aim of our project.”

The design of the technology will be tested using CERN’s existing X-band power systems and infrastructure. A successful demonstration will be translated into clinical use for the benefit of patients in the UK and abroad.

The project is funded by the partners, Cockcroft Institute and STFC.

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