Media Advisory: Princeton experts offer comments on CERN's quest for the Higgs boson

July 2, 2012 3:25 p.m.

On July 4, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will announce the latest results in the multinational search for the Higgs boson, a particle thought to be a key to understanding how fundamental particles such as quarks and electrons acquire mass.

Princeton University researchers involved in the search for the Higgs boson are available to comment on the announcement and provide background on the project. The following researchers have research and leadership experience at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator — as well as on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, which is largely geared toward identifying the Higgs boson.

To find the Higgs boson, the LHC is used to slam two beams of proton particles into one another at speeds nearing that of light. Giant particle detectors are used to capture images of the particles resulting from this collision. Because the Higgs boson is expected to live for an extremely short time — a trillionth of a trillionth of a second or less — before decaying into other particles, scientists seeking it study its decay products, working backward to reconstruct the Higgs.

Contact: For interview requests, please contact Morgan Kelly in Princeton's Office of Communications at or (609) 258-5729.

A.J. Stewart Smith

Dean for Research, Class of 1909 Professor of Physics

Smith is a leading researcher of high-energy particle physics and an expert on the study of antimatter. He has long involvement with the particle detector used in the CMS experiment, including his service as the lead referee for CMS on the CERN director's LHC committee from 2004 to 2009. He is available to comment on the significance of the search for the Higgs boson and how its detection could answer fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe. He also can comment on the challenges and successes of this international collaboration among scientists to design, build and operate the LHC, which is perhaps the most complex experimental effort in history.

Daniel Marlow

Evans Crawford 1911 Professor of Physics

Marlow works at the LHC to measure luminosity, which is a measure of how many collisions the LHC can produce at the point where the particle beams intersect. Among other things, luminosity is used to determine the number of Higgs events expected in a given sample.

Christopher Tully

Professor of Physics

Tully and Princeton graduate student of physics Xiaohang Quan are members of the team hunting for the Higgs boson. The CMS detector takes snapshots of the LHC collisions at a rate of 40 million per second. Tully and Quan are responsible for capturing images of events that produce two photons. These images are analyzed for evidence of the Higgs particle before it decayed into the photons. Tully joined the CMS experiment at its inception 18 years ago and has worked at the CERN laboratory since he was a teenager.

James Olsen

Professor of Physics

Olsen has worked at the LHC since 2007 and was recently named co-leader of the Higgs boson project for the CMS experiment for 2013-14. He leads the search for the Higgs as it decays into bottom quarks. Olsen and students in his lab are primary analysts for the search in the bottom quark channel, which plays a key role in determining the nature of any excess particles observed in the two-photon channel pursued by Princeton professor Christopher Tully (above).

Valerie Halyo

Assistant Professor of Physics

Halyo is responsible for building the CMS luminosity system that monitors the collision rate produced by the LHC and subsequently calibrates the physics measurements. She also leads the search for the Higgs boson's decay into neutral, long-lived particles in the leptonic channel, which includes elementary particles such as electrons and muons.