Luther junior Martin selected to participate in National Science Foundation-funded elementary particle physics research

Quarks are the smallest things that science has discovered, shown experimentally to be about a million billion times smaller than a grain of sand. Zach Martin, Luther College junior of Boone, Iowa, is researching the physics of quarks and the forces by which they interact for his summer research project at the college.

Martin, the son of Bill Martin and Kris Johansen, of Boone, is a 2015 graduate of Boone High School. He is majoring in physics at Luther.

"[This research] benefited my learning experience greatly in a number of ways. I think it helps put a lot of what we learn in the classroom into perspective, since we use our understanding of basic laws to try and extend our understanding of the universe. In this way, I'd say research is sort of the end goal of studying science; we train in the classroom so we can go out and contribute to human knowledge," said Martin.

Martin is working with Todd Pedlar, Luther associate professor of physics, on his project "Charm Meson Production in Bottomonium Decays."

Martin and Pedlar are working with data from the Belle Collaboration (an international group of 400 physicists, of which Pedlar is a member) which operates an experiment in Japan. His studies involve this data as well as Monte Carlo simulations of the experiment to attempt to investigate the forces that bind elementary particles together. The data they are studying was collected by the Belle detector, which records the result of collisions between electrons and positrons (antiparticles of the electron) in the KEK-B electron-positron collider.

KEK-B accelerates beams of electrons and positrons in opposite directions, then directs them towards each other to a point where the beams collide and annihilate, producing the particle systems that are the subject of Martin's project. The goal of his project is to determine the rate of production of charm mesons (elementary particle bound states composed of a charm quark and light antiquark) in decays of a system known as bottomonium – the bound state of bottom quark and bottom antiquark. By studying the particles produced in these collisions, they are able to better understand forces that hold particles together and correspondingly how the universe works.

This project is being pursued as part of Pedlar's ongoing research activities at Luther that are funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, which has funded the work he has done in elementary particle physics with his students since 2006. Martin's project is an example of Student-Faculty Summer Research projects at Luther which provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther's academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther's Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.