Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
July 13, 2004
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University physicist Jerry Blazey continues to play a pivotal role in one of the world’s most complex, most publicized and most ambitious physics experiments—with a goal to shed light on no less than the building blocks of the universe.
Blazey has been re-elected to a two-year term as spokesperson of the DZero project at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia. He and co-spokesperson John Womersley serve as point men for the project, which brings together the expertise of more than 600 researchers from nearly 40 U.S. universities and 40 foreign institutions.
“The biggest challenge is coordinating the efforts of all the disparate groups and projects,” Blazey says. “It’s a pretty big store to mind.”
DZero is one of two proton/antiproton particle collider experiments at Fermilab, where scientists are exploring the subatomic universe using the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, known as the Tevatron. The Tevatron effectively uses electric power with almost 1 trillion volts to hurl protons and antiprotons toward each other at nearly the speed of light in a four-mile underground ring.
Scientists study the particle collisions for traces of matter that have never before been documented. The DZero detector, named after the section of the Tevatron ring in which it is located, could be likened to a three-story microscope used to study matter at the tiniest scales accessible with today’s accelerator technology.
In the 1990s, the DZero group was involved in the discovery of the top quark, a milestone in quantum physics. Earlier this summer, the group published its findings in the prestigious journal Nature on precision measurements of the top quark’s mass. Using the new measurement, the researchers also altered their best estimate for the mass of the Higgs boson, a mysterious and yet-to-be discovered particle that would help explain why objects have mass. Discovery of the Higgs is considered among the most sought-after prizes in the field of particle physics.
The DZero group also has shed light on the electroweak theory and provided detailed studies of the internal structure of protons. All of these findings have had significant impact on the field of physics and scientific understanding of how the universe works at the subatomic level.
The co-spokespersons’ highest priority is to ensure that quality physics emerges from the experiment through the rest of the decade. Blazey says he and Womersley also must work to ensure:
“The technical, software, computing and physics leaders of the experiment have direct responsibility for many of these activities,” Blazey explains. “However, the spokespersons assist with the general planning and identification of resources required for each activity. In the eventuality of limited resources, we consult with the collaboration members and take responsibility for prioritizing projects.”
Blazey arrived at NIU in 1996, having worked previously as a full-time Fermilab scientist. He played a major role in assembling the NIU physics department’s successful Ph.D. proposal.
In 2000, Blazey was named a Presidential Research Professor, NIU’s highest honor for research. A year later he was named co-director of the newly established Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development (NICADD). The scientific center at NIU is dedicated to the development of a new generation of particle accelerators and detectors in northern Illinois.