Simon Fraser University

Particle Physics

The SFU physics department has a strong program in particle physics. On the theoretical side, activities are centered on the study of heavy-quark physics and lattice Quantum Chromodynamics.


The department is involved in two experiments: DZero at Fermilab, and ATLAS at CERN.  The ATLAS detector  wiill start taking data in 2008 at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. For many years, SFU physicists have been involved in testing and commissioning components of ATLAS and in building major computing facilities to process ATLAS data. Soon they will turn their attention to searching for "new physics" in the high energy interactions of the LHC.  Some fast facts about the LHC and ATLAS:


  • The 27km underground ring is used to collide two beams of protons. It will be the highest energy particle collider in the world with each proton traveling at 99.9999991% of the speed of light.
  • Even though the beam is composed only of minuscule subatomic particles, each beam carries roughly the same energy as an aircraft carrier traveling at 11 knots. This is enough energy to melt about 500 kg of copper.
  • The LHC will allow us to explore new energy scales and will give us new insight into such basic questions as: "what is mass?"


  • ATLAS is a particle detector which has been built and is managed by scientists in 37 countries around the world.  Its purpose is to record the debris from proton-proton collisions at the LHC.
  • The ATLAS detector is about 45 metres long, more than 25 metres high and weighs about 7,000 tons. It weighs the same as the Eiffel Tower or 100 empty 747 jets.
  • Canada has contributed major components of the ATLAS detector and Canadian scientists will play a significant role in analyzing the data that it records.
  • The SFU ATLAS group is involved in building part of the world-wide computing grid needed to analyze ATLAS data (more than 3 petabytes per year!). We are also involved in testing, commissioning and calibrating the detector. Finally, we will be using the data to look for exciting "new physics"!