Nick DePorzio

Swiss Mountains beckon physics student for dream co-​​op

by Joe O’Connell

When it came time to choose a col­lege, Nick DePorzio found a piece of infor­ma­tion that solid­i­fied his choice to attend Northeastern.

One of the university’s more than 2,900 co-​​op sites is CERN, the Euro­pean Orga­ni­za­tion for Nuclear Research, which hosts the world’s largest and most pow­erful par­ticle accel­er­ator. As DePorzio explained, CERN is the “holy grail” of des­ti­na­tions for anyone studying par­ticle physics.

Having that oppor­tu­nity at your grasp as an under­grad­uate was really exciting,” said DePorzio, S’17.

The physics major will finally grab hold of that oppor­tu­nity next month, when he begins his work at CERN in Geneva, Switzer­land, for his second co-​​op as a North­eastern stu­dent. He’ll be working with Col­lege of Sci­ence pro­fessor Darien Wood and asso­ciate pro­fessor Emanuela Barberis.

CERN is the world’s most com­plex exper­i­mental facility, built over a 10-​​year period by more than 10,000 col­lab­o­rating sci­en­tists around the world. It gives researchers the chance to test physics the­o­ries, par­tic­u­larly through its proton-​​proton col­li­sion detectors.

This is an exciting time for the col­lider, which ear­lier this month went back online fol­lowing a two-​​year hiatus for upgrades after it found the elu­sive Higgs Boson. Those upgrades included dou­bling the oper­ating energy at which the pro­tons are hurled at each other.

DePorzio will be tasked with mon­i­toring a new trigger system that will deter­mine which col­li­sion events look strong enough for fur­ther analysis. The new system was devel­oped to com­pen­sate for the increased oper­ating energy.

The system looks to define the window of where to look for a cer­tain event and the energy it pro­duces,” DePorzio said.

Because the par­ti­cles are thrown around in the col­lider with such great energy and mag­ni­tude, DePorzio said he’s excited to see first-​​hand the shift from intro­duc­tory physics, where clas­sical laws dic­tate how things move and operate, to a state where those laws really don’t apply anymore.

This co-​​op will also be faster paced than DePorzio’s first co-​​op, at least in terms of the speed the par­ti­cles are moving. For his first co-​​op, DePorzio worked at the Lab­o­ra­tori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy, where researchers test par­ti­cles at the lowest energy possible.

On his first co-​​op, DePorzio main­tained a video blog and inter­viewed researchers working in the lab working in the lab to better explain the exper­i­ments taking place. He hopes to do some­thing sim­ilar at the collider.

Originally published in [email protected] on June 24, 2015.

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