Samya Bano Zain, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Physics
Since 2004 I’ve been collaborating with other international researchers to investigate the Big Bang theory—how matter was created out of nothingness—and Susquehanna students are now getting involved.
My collaborations focus on the ATLAS detector at the CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) particle collider near Geneva, Switzerland–the world’s largest particle accelerator. Its 27-kilometer length creates more energy, more interactions and deeper understanding when matter or anti-matter particles collide. We can now look back to microseconds after the Big Bang. Our main purpose is to figure out the Higgs boson, the hypothetical “god particle” which supposedly endows all other matter particles with mass. Discovering it would get us even closer to the Big Bang.
Susquehanna physics students themselves can now also investigate the data being generated by the CERN accelerator. For their senior capstone project, a physics/music major and a physics/computer science major put together what’s called a Tier-3 Grid Cluster computer to analyze CERN accelerator data. It’s 52 CPUs—enough terabyte storage to hold every movie ever recorded on a CD. It was extraordinarily amazing to watch them put this together. Now my students sort through the data to find subatomic particles within atoms and figure out what they are doing—the same kind of research I do when I visit CERN and other physicists are doing around the world.
I also teach two music physics courses for both physic majors and those interested in the technical side of music. Instead of learning how to play an instrument, we talk about how standing waves produced by a piano or violin differ, or not; how the five lines on a musical scale are actually logarithmic scales on which the placement of each note represents a different sound frequency; and how this affects orchestra hall or theater construction.
I’m also working in biophysics with a physics/theater double major who is investigating how the eye responds to light in order to figure out how people seated in different parts of a theater perceive actors. How cool is that?
That’s what I like about physics. You never stop learning or thinking.
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