Former Central High student part of ‘God particle’ search
By Denise Moran For The Courier-News July 17, 2012 8:02PM
Derek Strom (second from left) at an Augustana Physics Club outreach day at Franklin School in Moline in 2001. | Photo courtesy~Augustana College Department of Physics
The announcement this month that the Higgs boson particle seems to have finally been observed has sparked some “nerd” humor.
Here’s some cited by CNN:
◆ A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest stops the particle and says, “We don’t allow your kind in here.” Undeterred, the particle responds: “But without me, you can’t have mass.”
◆ “A Higgs boson walks into a bar. The barman doesn’t understand.”
◆ “Some ppl say it’s silly to put so much money in something few people understand. Presumably those ppl also avoid banks.”
◆ “There’s an easy-to-understand video online that explains Higgs boson & creation of the universe, but it’s like four minutes long. Pass.”
◆ “Republicans rail against the Higgs boson as the largest taxing of Americans’ brains in history.”
Updated: August 19, 2012 6:18AM
BURLINGTON — Dr. Derek Strom, a former Central High School student, is a member of the team that recently announced the discovery of a new particle with properties consistent with the Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle.”
The announce-ment of the discovery was made at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Information from Augustana College in Rock Island that Central Community Unit School District 301 Superintendent Todd Stirn shared at the school board meeting on Monday night quoted Strom as saying that the search for the particle “was a massive undertaking by many to design and construct the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector.
“The data collection and searches performed for this new particle were equally intensive. A great sense of achievement and unity was felt throughout the laboratory on the day the announcement was made. We are now one step closer to understanding the nature of particle physics.”
Long time research
The search for the particle has been ongoing for many years.
Named after British theoretical theorist Peter Higgs, “It’s responsible for giving other particles mass,” said theorist Joe Lykken. “The Higgs energy field is like a sticky molasses that slows other particles from moving at the speed of light.”
The Higgs boson helps transmit mass from the Higgs field to other particles. Without it, the entire universe would behave as photons do — whirring through space too quickly to interact, too quickly to build atoms, molecules or planets.
Strom has been involved in physics research for a long time, according to Augustana College.
After graduating from Central High, Strom went on to graduate from Augustana in 2002 with a degree in physics and mathematics. He won a research fellowship in high-energy physics at Northwestern University and worked with the Tevatron proton-antiproton collider at Fermilab in Batavia. He finished his Ph.D. in 2008.
Strom joined the CMS Experiment as a postdoctoral research assistant and moved with his wife, Kimberly Baker, a 2003 Augustana graduate, to Switzerland. The CMS Experiment involves more than 2,000 physicists from 38 nations.
Family is supportive
Strom oversees the data collection and performance of the silicon strip tracking detector, a piece of the CMS apparatus designed to measure the momentum of charged particles produced in the proton collisions by the LHC. His other main role is basic physics research with a team searching for a hypothetical particle called the Z Prime boson.
Strom said that “being a researcher at the LHC is incredibly exciting since we’re at a new energy regime, and we don’t really know what’s going to turn up in our data. I feel honored to be a member of such a global collaboration at the energy and technological frontiers.”
Kathie Dickson, a second-grade teacher at Lily Lake Grade School, remembers the Strom family.
“The family is very supportive of the district,” Dickson said. “The father, Leland, was a school board member. The mother, Twyla, was a local area preschool teacher. The Strom family has been here for generations and farmed in the Burlington/Lily Lake area.”
Leland Strom is chairman of the board and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration.
He has been active in the agriculture industry for more than 30 years and helped develop a farmland preservation program in Kane County. The original Strom family farm was the first to be dedicated to permanent agricultural use under the program.