Themis Mastoridis | Courtesy Credit: Themis Mastoridis | Courtesy

Cal Poly physics professor Themis Mastoridis was given $750,000 through the Early Career Research Program grant to further his work with particle colliders. The grant will pave the way for Cal Poly students to help with research that would only be available to graduate students at other universities.

The grant will be used in part to make improvements to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

In past years, Mastoridis has been able to bring several students with him to work on the LHC, giving them an opportunity to experience first-hand the field they are studying.

Mathematics senior Seiji Hansen had the opportunity to travel to CENA with Mastoridis in Spring 2018.

“[Mastoridis] has done extensive work running simulations on particle collisions,” Hansen said. “His job is based around making it the most efficient in the sense that he shows how to take a whole batch of particles and uses them over and over.”

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Scientists are interested in studying these collisions because this research helps them to understand the complex particles more clearly.

“CERN is a very exciting place and just being there you can feel that excitement,” Mastoridis said. “It’s palpable. It’s full of very talented people, very motivated and dedicated to the science.”

Mastorodis currently has four students working alongside him on these sorts of projects but with the new grant, he is hoping to see these numbers increase. Any of his students are welcome to join him on trips to Switzerland, and he usually will send out an email at the beginning of the quarter inviting people.

“Right now, a little over half the students involved are physics majors, but we also have some in aerospace and math as well,” Mastoridis said.

Through the grant, this unique opportunity will be made available to more students.

“A lot of times [trips like these are] an opportunity exclusively for graduate students,” Hansen said.

The grant, distributed through the Department of Energy, was awarded to 84 scientists nationally. 30 grants were given to scientists working in laboratories, while the remaining 54 were given to scientists at various universities.

According to the Department of Energy, the Early Career Research Program “is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.”

The grant itself must be applied for by scientists and is a lengthy process.

“Applicants must write a personal statement with a 15-page limit as well as include additional pages on budget and the additional facilities to be used,” Mastoridis said. “The packet is then reviewed by a board here at Cal Poly and finally goes through the Department of Energy.”

The professor said he is also looking forward to using the resources permitted by the grant to expand work to an accelerator being built on the East Coast called the Electron Ion Collider and to further his relationship with the National Accelerator Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated by Stanford University.

The grant is a unique opportunity provided to students at Cal Poly and will continue to be a great resource for students as the program grows and as Mastoridis continues his work with the colliders.

“I get the best of both worlds with being in the classroom, working with students here at Cal Poly and then once a year I get to immerse myself in the excitement of CENA,” Mastoridis said. “I just feel very lucky to be involved.”

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