Contribution of AGH UST’s IT specialists to discovery of odderon

Leszek Grzanka, PhD at the particle detector at CERN

Part of the TOTEM installation in the LHC tunnel 220 m downstream from the CMS experiment (Image: CERN)

Scientists involved in the TOTEM experiment carried out by CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) have announced the discovery of the odderon – an elementary particle whose existence was predicted nearly 50 years ago. Work on the development of software as well as IT-related research supporting the experiment involved scientists and students of the AGH UST UST Faculty of Computer Science, Electronics and Telecommunications. 

Research conducted at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN near Geneva by scientists from the TOTEM experiment in collaboration with the DØ team from the American centre Fermilab with its Tevatron collider proved the existence of the odderon – a quasi-particle consisting of an odd number of gluons. Gluons are massless elementary particles that mediate strong interactions of between quarks. It was known before that gluons could bind into pairs and form bound states, but it was only the latest measurements which showed that similar phenomena could also take place in the case of an odd number of gluons. The existence of the odderon was predicted by theoretical physicists Basarab Nicolescu and Leszek Łukaszuk in 1973. 

TOTEM is one of the experiments that record the results of proton collisions at the LHC accelerator. Detectors used by the TOTEM experiment are used for measuring the total pp cross section, studying elastic scattering and diffractive dissociation, as well as studying the phenomenon of central exclusive particle production. CMS is a large experiment, whose one of the most spectacular achievements was the discovery of the Higgs boson (the so-called “God particle”) in 2012. CMS utilizes a general-purpose detector with the aim of studying physics beyond the Standard Model, supersymmetry, dark matter, and extra dimensions. 

The accomplishment of research tasks with the use of particle detectors requires the implementation and development of state-of-the-art IT systems. CERN-based summer internships for AGH UST students of computer science, initiated by Doctor Leszek Grzanka in 2009, resulted in starting official collaboration. In 2013, the Department of Computer Science (currently Institute of Computer Science), headed by professor Krzysztof Zieliński, became an official member of the TOTEM experiment, and since 2018, it has also been involved in the CMS experiment. At present, collaboration with CERN is coordinated by professor Maciej Malawski and doctor Leszek Grzanka. 

The team from AGH UST does not only take care of the development and ensuring the quality of software for data reconstruction and the simulation of detector responses, but it also deals with various aspects of parallel processing for the purpose of big data analysis. In collaboration with a CERN’s team developing the ROOT software for data analysis, the scientists also develop methods of data analysis with the use of modern cluster environments and cloud computing. Thanks to it, it is possible to speed up calculations as well as performing some analyses in an interactive way, which had been impossible to achieve by means of traditional methods. 

Every year, the programme involves several students taking part in summer internships at CERN laboratories, in groups supervised by Valentina Avati. Many of them want to stay in the experiment for a longer time, in this way working on their bachelor or master theses. The results of their work are often incorporated in the joint efforts of CERN’s experimental physicists and make a positive contribution to interesting discoveries. 

Professor Maciej Malawski has been a leader of the team taking part in the TOTEM experiment since 2017. He completed his studies in the fields of computer science and physics. His scientific interests include programming, parallel systems and distributed computing, as well as using large-scale computing infrastructures for scientific applications, including physics and medicine. 

Doctor Leszek Grzanka completed his studies in the fields of computer science and mathematics, and later obtained a doctor’s degree in physics (at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences). He has been involved in the TOTEM project since 2006, looking after the development of software necessary for the analysis and reconstruction of data recorded by detectors located near the beam at the LHC accelerator.