What Does It Take to Discover a Particle?

Course Description

In this course, we will learn to view the physical world as experimental particle physicists and be able to ask the "right" questions that lead them to discover fundamental particles. You will become familiar with the concept of the 'Standard Model', which is the "cookbook" of modern physics that takes the particles as ingredients and provides the recipe to construct the world as we experience it! We will begin by learning how ancient philosophy led to the concept of "atoms" and eventually to the discovery of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Then, we will transition into a discussion of the forces that act on these different particles allowing them to interact. This will lead to the discovery of quarks, which will be accompanied by a formal introduction to the Standard Model. Finally, we will look at the Large Hadron Collider's discovery of the Higgs boson as an example of a more recent discovery in particle physics. By going through the timeline of major particle physics discoveries, you will become familiar with the history of physics as well as the history of technological innovation.

The course material will consist of a variety of mediums including published papers, lay articles, textbook excerpts as well as videos demonstrating concepts. You will regularly participate in Socratic discussions based on the course material and work in groups for a final project. Evaluation will be made both through written reflections on the course material and submitted homework assignments. The course will culminate with a final presentation requiring some independent research utilizing the learned knowledge of technical terms within particle physics. Overall, this course will de-emphasize the mathematics behind particle physics and focus on the history, culture, and concepts of particle physics.

As a result of taking this course, you will be able to:
• Understand the steps taken to become a physicist
• Recall the historical development of particle physics research
• Explain the leading theory for the observable universe known as the Standard Model
• Describe some of the key experiments and technologies necessary for detecting particles
• Identify modern developments in particle physics including research collaborations and new physics "beyond the Standard Model"

You will be given the knowledge and tools necessary to look into physics research of your own interest and understand the research questions driving those experiments as well as the methods used for discovery. Furthermore, exposure to modern research methods should help those desiring a career in physics identify a field of interest.


The recommended prerequisites for this course include an introductory course in either chemistry or physics. Students should be familiar with the atomic model with a nucleus and orbiting electrons. It is beneficial to have familiarity with classical mechanics and electrodynamics to further appreciate concepts such as energy and forces, but is not necessary for understanding the course material at face value.


Two Sections Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: June 27, 2022 - July 15, 2022
Duration: 3 Weeks
Meeting Times: Online - Blended with required live sessions every Monday from 4:00PM - 5:00PM and Friday from 1:00PM - 2:00PM Eastern Standard Time (EST)
Status: Closed
Format: Online
Instructor(s): Daniel Li
Course Number: 10318

Dates: July 18, 2022 - August 05, 2022
Duration: 3 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 3:30P-6:20P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Daniel Li
Course Number: 10319