Honours Research Spots: Subatomic Jenna

This year the Argosy will be highlighting many of Mount Allison’s honours science  students by showcasing their research and a bit about themselves! Mount Allison’s science programs afford opportunities for upper year students to participate in year-long research projects, either independent studies or working with a professor on their research. Most students who partake in these programs are honours students, like Jenna Chisholm in the physics department, who sat down to chat with The Argosy about her research experience last week.

Chisholm is a fourth year student who researches under the supervision of Dr. David Hornidge, a specialist in subatomic physics. Working in the field of subatomic physics (which includes high profile projects like CERN, one of the world’s most respected institutes specializing in research into the fundamentals of science, and home of the Large Hadron Collider) has always been a dream of hers, “When I was in highschool and did my tour of Mt. A, we met the head of the physics department, who mentioned that there was student research, and that one of the professors worked across the pond in Germany. I knew that was something I really wanted to look into when I got here.”

Jenna’s research uses a particle accelerator, though one much smaller than the famous Large Hadron collider at CERN, which allows scientists to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang. “Going to Germany and getting to see the accelerator and detectors and be hands on was one of the best experiences from working with Dave,” she said. The linear accelerator used in her research emits a photon beam which scatters particles the beam interacts with. Jenna’s research focuses on the scattering. 

“I’m looking for a particular process with Neutral Pion particles. We look at the probability of a neutral pion production at certain photon energy levels, and at certain angles.” Chisholm explained, “we are looking for fundamental observables to better understand the standard model”

The standard model is a theory in particle physics which explains three of the four fundamental forces: electromagnetic, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear. The standard model does not include gravity (gravitational force), but does allow particle physicists to classify all known elementary particles. Many studies of the standard model are conducted with particle accelerators, like the one Chisholm gathers data from. “The beam of the accelerator runs 24/7,” Jenna said, “so sometimes we had to work night shifts to babysit the beam. I guess this was the worst part of my research, but it really wasn’t that bad. It was super cool to be working the beam and be part of this team!”

Being in her final year, Chisholm is looking into grad schools, and her research experience has a big influence on where she wants to go. “I definitely want to continue in the field of experimental subatomic physics. It would be so cool to go into something like the ATLAS collaboration with CERN,” she said. She also encourages younger science students to take advantage of the research opportunities at Mt. A. “Intro classes don’t go in depth. Research lets you find what you like, and what you don’t. So definitely apply, even if you don’t think you’ll get in, just apply! You never know, and it really is such an amazing experience.”

Zoë Wright
Zoë is a contributor to the Argosy.