Students unveil the wonders of particle physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

April 2024

IRIS students joined leading particle physicists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) for its annual particle physics masterclass.


The masterclass is a part of Big Data: ATLAS, a collaboration between IRIS, the Oxford University and RAL to introduce young people to the excitement of particle physics. The award-winning research project teaches young people analytical and coding methods used by particle physicists. Students develop critical skills in statistical analysis, Python computer programming, data presentation and interpretation of ATLAS open-source data, including how to find evidence of the Higgs boson.


Dr Eimear Conroy – a postdoc researcher working on the Standard Model as part of the Oxford ATLAS group  and Professor Alan Barr – who has been involved in the ATLAS experiment since 1999 – led the day. Dr Conroy broke down the complexities of the Universe’s fundamental particles, setting the stage for hands-on exploration.

Dr Eimear Conroy leads the coding session to develop research projects

Next, students embarked on a coding session guided by Rutherford particle physicists. After learning the techniques needed to analyse ATLAS data, they considered what direction they might take their own research.


Tours of the laboratory, including the Particle Physics Lab and the ISIS particle accelerator, offered a glimpse into cutting-edge research and technology. Students also got up close and personal with the tools of the trade, igniting their passion for scientific discovery.


A lively careers panel provided insights into the diverse pathways within particle physics, inspiring students to pursue their passions. Throughout the day, students and teachers engaged with researchers, asking questions and fuelling their enthusiasm for science.

Professor Alan Barr was impressed with students’ engagement in the subject, saying  “it’s so uplifting to see what the students are able to do, and to hear their enthusiasm for the science. A great day!”


The schools that took part were King’s Academy, Highcrest Academy, King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, Cirencester College, Leeds Mathematics School, Tiffin Girls’ School and Sevenoaks School.


Particle physicists who designed the project have been blown away by the innovation, sophistication and creativity of students’ research. To learn more about what our past students have achieved, check out the ATLAS project that won King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys students the Best Project award at last year’s IRIS awards or how the project won the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) Public Engagement Partnership Award last year.

Watch to learn more about the IRIS Big Data: ATLAS project

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Empower your students with the skills to unravel the mysteries of the Universe and find evidence of the Higgs boson.