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Featured Graduate Student - Brian Connolly

From the Spring 2001 sciencelines

Brian Connolly, DØ, Florida State University

Brian, please tell us a bit about your experiment here at Fermilab.

I came to Fermilab at the end of 1998. I have been spending half of my time helping build the detector and half on my thesis. I am collaborating with others to measure the mass of the top quark through the DØ detector. Within the detector we sift out millions of interactions that occur every second. We build triggers that sort and sift the data so we have what we want to study. From the electrons you'll have a lot of B quarks. We set the parameters, sort and sift and study what supports our assumptions about the mass of the top.

Did you always plan to study science? What influenced you?

Well, from the age of six I can recall watching programs like Carl Sagan's Cosmos and being interested in science. I was always curious about how things worked, but I didn't like math. I read a lot. But, I was "doomed to be average" early in my educational career.

In junior high I had the chance to attend a science camp at Ball State University and I remember hearing stories of scientists, history of science really. This all kept my interest peaked.

When I went to Bowling Green State University, I wasn't sure what I wanted to major in. I started out in elementary education, then thought it might be fun to be a "roadie" and explored technical theatre for a while. My sister, who is a year and a half younger than me, was attending Purdue and studying physics. She had all these great stories about the program and before I knew it, I was convinced, transferred and finished my undergraduate program there.

What involvement have you had with education? What do you like most about working with teachers and/or students?
I speak with the high school and Beauty and Charm groups when they come to Fermilab. I've also gone into a few classrooms to share some interactive talks with fourth and fifth graders. You learn so much when you teach.

What have you learned? What advice would you give?

Science can be a vehicle to help people learn about so much that surrounds them - things they don't understand, TV, power lines . . . People have tremendous curiosity. It's flabbergasting and their interestis a great resource. Never underestimate the impact you can make to help them understand, even on the most temperamental. Never say never.

Please share a little about yourself, such as your hobbies, family, etc.

My sister is here at the Lab too. I still read a lot, anything from philosophy to literature. I play the piano, which can be helpful if you just need to relax. I've done a bit of traveling and had a chance for a cheap ticket to Belize for New Year's Eve '00/'01, just in case we had any Y2K problems, there was no electricity anyway. It was a blast!