Quarks are the smallest things that science has discovered, shown experimentally to be about a million billion times smaller than a grain of sand. Tatiana Proksch, Luther College junior of Santa Barbara, California, is researching the physics of quarks and the forces by which they interact for her summer research project at the college.
Proksch, the daughter of Roger Proksch and Irene Revenko, of Santa Barbara, is a 2015 graduate of San Marcos Senior High School. She is majoring in physics at Luther.
Through Luther's research opportunities Proksch said she has built "relationships with my professors as well as my peers. Even something as simple as going to lunch with my fellow physics buddies is a great way to feel more comfortable in the classroom, especially when it comes to working together and asking questions, with both peers and professors. As a result, some of my best friends are people in my class that I probably would've never talked to outside [of class]. It makes physics fun. We're stronger together," said Proksch.
Proksch is working with Todd Pedlar, Luther associate professor of physics, on her project "Charm Meson Production in Bottomonium Decays."
Proksch and Pedlar are working with data from the Belle Collaboration (an international groups of 400 physicists, of which Pedlar is a member) which operates an experiment in Japan. Her 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 Proksch's project. The goal of her 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. Proksch'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.