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My REU research

As non-technical an explanation as possible of what I did for my REU (research experience for undergraduates) research.

Last summer, I was an REU student at Kansas State University. When I got there I decided to join the high energy physics project on NuTeV. NuTeV was an experiment at Fermilab that ran two years, and studied neutrinos shooting out of the Tevatron (hence the name NuTeV). Many different universities were all working on NuTeV and collecting data for various experiments. I was assigned to learn how to make some data plots on a physics program called PAW (physics analysis workstation) and to learn how to program in FORTRAN. They eventually had me program a small function, part of their gazillion data analysis program files, which would simulate data according to the Fermi gas model of the nucleus. I'll try to explain simply.

What they did at Kansas State was this: they had written a program which would make simulations of the NuTeV experiment, and give results according to what their theories expected would happen. The simulation program was a "monte carlo", or basically a random statistical generator, which then eliminated the data that didn't satisfy the conditions of the theories. They also had another program to take the actual, real data that came from the experiment, and then they would use PAW to graphically compare and see how well the simulated and real data matched, to see where their theories needed improvement.

My part in this was to write a function in the simulation program which would test the Fermi gas model theory. The Fermi gas model is that, at certain high energy levels of the colliding particle, the nucleus is not tightly bound at all. The nucleus can be pictured more like a loose "gas" of free neutrons and protons that can be easily knocked out by the incoming colliding particle. But if the nucleus is a "gas", then the neutrons and protons (nucleons) should have some random kinetic energy to begin with, and this might affect the collision with the outside particle. So I programmed a bit that would figure out what would happen if you took this random "jiggling" motion of the nucleons into account.

Wow, I still remember all that!

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© Huong Nguyen 1998