Making Noteworthy Contributions at CERN Physics Research Lab

in Global Matters, Global Profiles
March 14th, 2023

Undergrad Caspian Chaharom has exceptional study abroad experience in Geneva

For Physics major Caspian Chaharom (CAS ’23), the experience of interning at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), an international physics research center, has been filled with invaluable opportunities. Among them: Working alongside the world’s leading physicists. Being part of a social environment that is culturally diverse, with 103 nationalities represented in the CERN scientific community. Participating in research that’s at the forefront of understanding some of the most fundamental aspects of Nature. And focusing on the creation and detection of heavy/rare particles, such as the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that could provide a missing piece of the puzzle in science’s working model of the universe.

With all that Chaharom has been able to take advantage of as a study abroad student and learn as a CERN intern, his lasting contributions to one of the largest particle physics experiments ever built are even more impressive. CERN Physicist and BU Adjunct Professor Tiziano Camporesi notes that Chaharom’s achievements exceed what one may expect an undergraduate to contribute. “Caspian’s achievements are typical of what one would expect from either an advanced PhD student or a junior academic engineer,” says Professor Camporesi.

Photo of Chaharom at CERNExplaining part of his work at CERN and the challenges around it, Chaharom says that his work focused on the creation and detection of heavy/rare particles, such as the Higgs boson. “Detecting the Higgs boson is very difficult because it is very heavy, so it requires a lot of energy to create (from E=mc^2), and it decays to other particles very quickly, so it has to be detected from its decay products. Because the creation is so rare, many collisions have to happen [in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)] so one is created by chance. To speed up the process, 40 million bunches of protons collide every second, which gives very little time between collisions to process what happened, which is what the software I wrote works on.”

Professor Camporesi adds that with the collisions happening 40 million times per second and the sheer amount of data that is collected for each collision, such data flow is unsustainable. One key component of the electronics for the experiment is the ‘trigger,’ which consist in dedicated electronics, and selects in real-time only a handful of collisions (typically ~ 2,000 per second).

“The selection is based on the research interests: the selected collisions show a pattern which is either consistent of being some hint of new physics phenomena or being a known state of the P-P collisions, but which the Compact Muon Solenoid detector can measure better than it has done in the past. The logic to do this selection is becoming more and more sophisticated, and Caspian worked to successfully implement some advanced algorithm – based on Artificial Intelligence/deep learning approaches – in the new ‘trigger’ logic that the experiment will deploy in the years to come,” explains Professor Camporesi.

The most interesting part of working at CERN was the range of countries the scientists, engineers, and students came from.
Caspian Chaharom

In addition to his software development project, Chaharom designed a circuit for the timing receiver circuit to measure the particles position as they go along the beam in the LHC. 40 million collisions occur per second in the LHC, producing hundreds of terabytes of data per second!

As part of this project, Chaharom was able to build on some experience he had gained at BU in designing electronic printed circuit boards and worked alongside many other engineers on the timing system at CERN. “The LHC is undergoing a number of upgrades to increase the luminosity (and therefore the number of collisions), and requires higher performance hardware,” he says. “The beam position monitors are going to use more modern FPGAs that operate with lower voltage, which makes them more efficient, but requires all the circuitry that interfaces with it to also use the lower voltage, such as the timing system circuit I designed.”

Chaharom’s design for the new circuit underwent review by the Engineering team at CERN, was approved, and is now in production. In addition to gaining unmatched experience at CERN and working on a large, collaborative research project, Chaharom says he relishes the opportunity to have learned from many diverse individuals.

“The most interesting part of working at CERN was the range of countries the scientists, engineers, and students came from,” Chaharom says. “I have met more students and researchers from a wider variety of countries than I have in my whole life.”

Professor Camporesi adds that Chaharom’s experience is a good example among many success stories of the students who interned at CERN this year and in past years. To learn more about the Geneva Physics program, visit the program page.