Research 2
 
The world of learning is so broad, and the human soul is so limited in power! We reach forth and strain every nerve, but we seize only a bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us.
~Maria Mitchell

Spiropulu's Supersymmetric Sparticles

Twenty-four. No, not hours in a day; that's the number of years Maria Spiropulu has been in school!
Spiropulu, a graduate student finishing her research at Fermilab, was born and raised in Greece. The schools in this southern European country prepared her well, she said, for a career in the sciences. Her acceptance into Harvard Graduate school is evidence of her superior credentials.
"I was never told I couldn't do something—in the beginning, I wanted to become an astronaut; I wanted to explore the universe. I started buying books about physics when I was in middle school," Spiropulu explained. She continued developing her interest in science through college. After graduating, she decided to come to the United States to pursue further studies at Harvard. At the end of her three years of study on the Cambridge campus, Spiropulu came to Fermilab.
A graduate student in a scientific field such as physics must complete a thesis. A thesis is a long paper in which the student describes the research she has done for her graduate studies. Spiropulu's thesis involves subatomic particles, which is why she chose Fermilab as the place to do her work. She is currently investigating supersymmetric particles (also called "sparticles"), which are thought to be mirror images of regular particles. Spiropulu hopes to find evidence of sparticles through her work on Fermilab's CDF detector.
When Spiropulu finishes her work at Fermilab, she will return to Harvard to continue her research and submit her results to scientific journals.
When asked what advice she would give students, Spiropulu encourages the search for intellectual passion. "It can't happen that all of a sudden you have inspirations in your head; you have to work at it. You have to listen to the desire, to yourself, and then you have to cultivate it."
Spiropulu cites teachers as one of the best resources available to students. "Ask your teachers to tell you things beyond the standard knowledge and what is being taught in class. Ask, ask, ask!" Spiropulu laughed, "Torture them if you have to until you get the answers."
She continued, "You're dealing with a world that is going way faster scientifically than ever before. It took a century to go from an electron to a muon and it took thirty years to get the Standard Model. For you, it's a very exciting world."

Violating the Rules

It took two collaborations of more than 400 scientists apiece to discover the top quark. These men and women worked for years designing, constructing, and running experiments, not to mention analyzing and interpreting incredible amounts of data.
Not all important experiments require hundreds of workers, however. Dr. Catherine "Cat" James, a member of the Hyper CP experiment, explained that she preferred working with a smaller group of scientists.
"I chose to work on this experiment because I had worked with many of these people as a student. I also knew that this would be one of the last chances I'd have to work in a small group like this; we only have about thirty people. As experiments get more complex, they require more and more people and more and more money," said James.
This (relatively) simple experiment involves using detectors to track particles after the collision of a proton with a fixed target. The experimenters hope to use the data that they will collect to demonstrate that a phenomenon called CP Violation does in fact occur. The CP Violation theory may help explain why we have matter in our universe.
An experiment of any magnitude requires a variety of talents. First, physicists, both theorists and experimentalists, must conceive the idea for the experiment. Then, the scientists work with engineers to
design the proper equipment to make the experiment work. Once the equipment is ready, qualified researchers and scientists must constantly monitor the experiment's progress, taking careful data in addition to correcting any problems that may arise. Finally, physicists interpret the experimental observations to come to a
Cat James adjusts a detector
conclusion, which they publish in a journal.
"There are some people who work for many years and become very specialized in a particular aspect of doing an experiment. I prefer to take slightly different jobs in each experiment that I work on, to keep things interesting. Variety is the spice of life," commented James.
The scientists working on the Hyper CP experiment expect to finish their data analysis around 2002. Following the publication of the research, James will continue to work at Fermilab on the NuMI experiment.