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30 under 30: Searching for the Higgs Boson

Meet Alexander Mott, 24, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Image courtesy of Alexander Mott

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the 25th in a series of 30.

Name: Alexander Mott
Age: 24
Born: Massachusetts, USA
Nationality: USA / UK

Current position: Ph.D. student at the California Insititue of Technology
Education: Bachelor’s degree in physics and math from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What is your field of research?
I am searching for the standard model Higgs Boson and evidence of supersymmetry in the data collected by the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. I also work on the CMS High Level Trigger, a computing system that processes all data collected by the CMS detector in real time (100,000 events per second) and choose ones with interesting signatures for further study.

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
I became interested in high energy physics when I began by working with the MIT Heavy Ion group looking at data from RHIC (the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, at BNL) as an undergraduate. Analyzing the thousands of particles produced by colliding 2 gold atoms together at nearly the speed of light and trying to observe tiny deviations from what one expects is a fascinating, difficult problem. Given this background, I was extremely interested in the LHC and jumped at the chance to work on the biggest physics experiment ever.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The answer to this depends on what we see in those 10 years.  If we see hints of new physics between the electro-weak scale and the Planck scale, then I would hope to stay at CERN to look for it.  If we discover the Higgs Boson, then we will need to know everything about it. If we do not discover the Higgs, then we need to understand the mechanism for electro-weak symmetry breaking.  All of these are fascinating problems and I would hope to continue working on them for many years to come. 

What is your dream experimetn?
The LHC is pretty close to my dream experiment, and the LHC at twice the energy will be even better!

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
The Lindau meeting is a phenomenal opportunity to learn from the scientists who defined much of modern physics and from some of the people who might define the future. The laureates who worked in high energy physics discovered or postulated many of the particles and effects we now work with every day (The Z-boson and asymptotic freedom, to name just two). We will learn from the preeminent experts in many fields of physics not only about the challenges of their own fields, but also about their view of the key challenges facing physics and the world in years to come. I hope to come out of this meeting with a deeper understanding of my own field and exposure to many other interesting fields of research outside of high energy physics.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
While I am extremely excited to meet all of them, I am particularly excited to meet the ones who work on fundamental particle physics. With the advent of the LHC, we are in a position to potentially see physics beyond the standard model in the next few years. It will be extremely interesting to get their opinion on the current state of the field, as well as what we might see and what it would mean.

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24. Martina Abb
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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26. Tansu Daylan


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