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You, Too, Can Smash Atoms!

CMS proton-proton collision event shows possible signs of Higgs boson.
Real CMS proton-proton collisions events in which 4 high energy electrons (red towers) are observed. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of a Higgs boson but is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes. (Image credit: CERN/CMS/Taylor, L; McCauley, T )

While most high-school students are stuck building science fair experiments with a funnel, some popsicle sticks or a few parts from Radio Shack, a few lucky ones will have the opportunity to take their science to a whole new level.

CERN, the Geneva, Switzerland-based physics organization that runs the Large Hadron Collider that recently found the Higgs Boson, is opening up a particle beamline for students with the best research proposal.

The beams accelerate protons and other particles to incredibly high speeds, and the focused beams are then fed to experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider, which smashes beams together to create tiny subatomic particles.

The Proton Synchrotron beam line will be open to a total of nine teams of up to 30 students over age 16, along with one adult coach. Nine of the lucky winners will travel to CERN for a week in July or August and use a powerful proton beam to probe the mysteries of matter. CERN is also helping out with travel and living expenses.

The teams can design their experiments for two beams: the Super Proton Synchrotron and the Proton Synchrotron beams.

Would-be atom smashers can apply for the program by filling out a simple registration form by Jan. 31, as well as a 140-character statement saying why they should win the competition. After that, students still have till March 31 to submit their complete proposal.

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Tia Ghose
Tia has interned at Science News,, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.