Kennesaw State science professors’ work connected to 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics


Nikolaos Kidonakis and David Joffe’s research on Higgs boson helps advance science

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct. 22, 2013) — Kennesaw State University physics Professor Nikolaos Kidonakis and Assistant Professor David Joffe in the College of Science and Mathematics share a unique connection with the winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Kidonakis performed theoretical research on the Higgs boson and the top quark as part of both Standard Model calculations and other physics. His results are used worldwide by theorists and in experimental collaborations.

Joffe, who participated in the ATLAS experiment that confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, said of the experiments in Switzerland, “It was like looking for the world’s smallest needle in the world’s largest haystack.”

Earlier this month, physicists Francois Englert and Peter Higgswere awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physicsfor their theories, hatched 50 years ago, that led each of them to independently propose the mechanism that gives subatomic particles their mass. Their theories were confirmed through last year’s discovery of the predicted fundamental particle by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

ATLAS and CMS are particle physics experiments carried out by international teams of scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland. Several thousand physicists from 35 countries are taking part in the project to see what happens when protons collide at high energies.

Kidonakis also shares a personal connection with Higgs, who served as the Ph.D. advisor to Kidonakis’ own Ph.D. advisor. Kidonakis also worked out of Higgs’ office at the University of Edinburgh as a postdoctoral fellow there in the late 1990s, where Higgs is professor emeritus.

“We had several very interesting conversations about physics,” Kidonakis said. “Professor Higgs was very nice but rather shy. He liked to stay out of the limelight.”  

Although Joffe did not meet Higgs, he was part of the team at CERN that collided protons at high energies to prove the existence of the Higgs boson particle.

“Researchers studied trillions of collisions over the years,” Joffe said. “I worked on searches for the decay of the Higgs Boson into two photons, which involved sifting through all the data, an enormous amount of data, to find the evidence for the existence of the particle.”

Kidonakis added, “By December 2011, scientists had some tantalizing evidence that they had found the Higgs. Then, on July 4, 2012 enough conclusive evidence was presented to claim discovery. More data was collected since then which further strengthened the July 2012 announcement that they had discovered the Higgs boson."

“There are theories beyond the Standard Model of particle physics that involve more types of Higgs particles. So far the data are consistent with a Standard Model Higgs but further study is required for possible evidence of new physics.”

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 24,600 from 130 countries.

— Robert S. Godlewski