Dr Christopher Lester
Fellow and Director of Studies for Natural Sciences (Physical)
Telephone: 01223 338260
Dr Lester is an experimental high-energy particle physicist and a Fellow of Peterhouse. His main research interest concerns the search for new physics at small scales - for example particles, symmetries, forces and extra space-time dimensions which are not yet part of the "Standard Model" of particle physics.
Dr Lester's work is heavily tied to the construction, commissioning and (it is hoped) exploitation of the "ATLAS Experiment" being built at CERN, the European Centre for Particle Physics in Geneva. Experimental particle physics is a highly collaborative field, and the work involves collaboration with members of many other European universities and institutions in Asia and the Americas.
The ATLAS Experiment intends to probe the states of matter that were present in the universe less than one picosecond after the "Big Bang". It hopes to accomplish this by using the particle accelerating machine, the "Large Hadron Collider" in a 27km circular tunnel on the Franco-Swiss border, to collide protons at centre-of-mass energies higher than any which have yet been created in laboratories around the world. In effect, the collisions should produce tiny regions with the characteristics of small pieces of the big-bang. If the accelerator manages to make about forty million of these collisions every second for a period of about ten years, and if each part of the ATLAS detector works as designed and is able to "photograph" or record the 0.001% of interesting collisions, then it should be possible to answer a number of presently open questions which are fundamental to particle physics. How many space time dimensions are there? Does supersymmetric matter exist? Is there a Higgs Boson? Can we make Dark Matter in the laboratory?
On the experimental side, Dr Lester is involved in the commissioning of the Semi-Conductor Tracker - the part of the ATLAS detector second-closest to the interaction point. This device measures the momenta of charged particles, of which there will be hundreds in each event. On the physics side, he is interested in understanding the mechanisms through which supersymmetric particles, perhaps including potential "Dark Matter" candidates (which may make up the majority of the universe, even though they have not been seen directly yet), may make themselves known to us in the data the experiment will eventually produce.
Christopher Lester’s departmental home page can be found here.