U of I hosts US ATLAS 2015 Workshop

Verena I. Martinez Outschoorn
7/10/2015 12:00 AM

The Large Hadron Collider has just restarted at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, and the members of the ATLAS experiments are getting ready for the deluge of data. On June 24-26, the University of Illinois hosted the 2015 US ATLAS Meeting, an intensive four day workshop that brought together about 100 members of the ATLAS experiment from US institutions across the country. 

A group photo of conference attendees
A group photo of conference attendees

The workshop this year focused on three main areas. The first goal was to prepare a new group of scientists to study the data by providing pedagogical introductions to the main areas of detector performance and reconstruction, and by reviewing some of the recent improvements to the detector and the software used to process the data. The second aim was to discuss the plans in the US to upgrade the detector. Finally, the third goal was to review ATLAS physics results and discuss exciting prospects for measurements and searches in this upcoming run of the LHC.

The workshop was packed with activities! Participants had the opportunity to present the results of their work and participate in many discussions on a wide range of topics. A career panel was setup with former high energy physics experimentalists who have pursued career paths outside of academia. The panel provided advice to members of ATLAS, as well as graduate students from the Physics department, on how to transition from academia to industry and be successful.

The last evening of the workshop included a banquet dinner and an awards ceremony to outstanding contributors to ATLAS. The event ended with a very emotional speech by Howard Gordon, a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Lab, who is a PhD from the University of Illinois and was awarded the lifetime achievement award this year. Dr. Gordon, who has a huge number of accomplishments and has been a key figure in US ATLAS, recalled his experience as a graduate student and fondly remembers meeting his wife on campus.

We look forward to welcoming back the LHC community to Urbana-Champaign in the near future!

For more pictures and information about the workshop, please see the website


Recent News

Assistant Professors Verena Martinez Outschoorn and Liang Yang of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have each been selected for 2017 NSF CAREER Awards. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award of the National Science Foundation is conferred annually in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars by integrating outstanding research with excellent education. Receipt of this honor also reflects great promise for a lifetime of leadership within recipients’ respective fields.

Mason says, “there are so few of us, people get the impression that we are like unicorns – either non-existent or magical.” We are far from non-existent, but I find women of color to be quite magical. However, as Jesse Williams says, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

  • Outreach

It’s up to you and your team to save the free world from evil forces plotting its destruction, and you have precisely 60 minutes to do it. You must find out what happened to Professor Schrödenberg, a University of Illinois physicist who disappeared after developing a top-secret quantum computer that can crack any digital-security encryption code in the world.  Unfortunately, the previous groups of special agents assigned to the case disappeared while investigating the very room in which you now find yourself locked up, Schrödenberg’s secret lab.

LabEscape is a new science-themed escape room now open at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, testing the puzzle-solving skills of groups of up to six participants at a time. Escape rooms, a new form of entertainment cropping up in cities across the U.S. and around the globe, provide in-person mystery-adventure experiences that have been compared to living out a video-game or movie script. A team of participants is presented with a storyline and locked into a room with only one hour to find and decipher a sequence of interactive puzzles that will unlock the door and complete the mission. Two escape room businesses are already in operation in the area, C-U Adventures in Time and Space in Urbana and Brainstorm Escapes in Champaign.


  • Research
  • AMO/Quantum Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Topological insulators, an exciting, relatively new class of materials, are capable of carrying electricity along the edge of the surface, while the bulk of the material acts as an electrical insulator. Practical applications for these materials are still mostly a matter of theory, as scientists probe their microscopic properties to better understand the fundamental physics that govern their peculiar behavior.

Using atomic quantum-simulation, an experimental technique involving finely tuned lasers and ultracold atoms about a billion times colder than room temperature, to replicate the properties of a topological insulator, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has directly observed for the first time the protected boundary state (the topological soliton state) of the topological insulator trans-polyacetylene. The transport properties of this organic polymer are typical of topological insulators and of the Su-Schrieffer-Heeger (SSH) model.

Physics graduate students Eric Meier and Fangzhao Alex An, working with Professor Bryce Gadway, developed a new experimental method, an engineered approach that allows the team to probe quantum transport phenomena.