The signing took place in the presence of the Minister for Education and Employment, the Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport, the Hon. Chris Agius, Dr Giacinto de Cataldo, High Momentum Particle Identification Project Leader, and Dr Pierre Vande Vyvre, O2 Project Leader. The University of Malta Team Leaders Dr Gianluca Valentino and Dr Kevin Vella, as well as other researchers currently involved in the collaboration, Dr Johann A. Briffa, Dr Keith Bugeja, and Prof. Edward Gatt were also present.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a state-of-the-art 27-km long circular collider located at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC accelerates and collides proton and heavy-ion beams at world-record energies to probe into the fundamental constituents of matter. It has allowed physicists to confirm the existence of the predicted Higgs boson, the last missing puzzle piece of the standard model, for which the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded in 2013.
A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) is one of the particle physics detectors in LHC. A collaboration of over 1500 scientists from 37 countries around the world, it has been designed to measure the properties of particles produced from the high-energy collisions, which create temperatures almost 100,000 times hotter than the temperature of the Sun’s core. It is able to recreate the quark-gluon plasma that existed in the a few microseconds after the start of the Big Bang, which will shed light on the mechanism of the strong force and how it results in generating the bulk of the mass of ordinary matter. Almost 100 terabytes of data (20,000 DVDs) are generated per day, which require the latest high-performance computing technology such as the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid to process and analyse the data.
Initial links between CERN and the University of Malta were established in 1999 by a member of the current team, Dr Kevin Vella, through a collaboration with the ATLAS experiment on software for data acquisition systems. Dr Vella later led Malta’s participation in the EUMEDGRID project in which both CERN and the University of Malta were partners, which project focused on building regional research infrastructures for the large scale analysis of data from scientific experiments such as those hosted at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. In 2008 Malta signed a cooperation agreement at a national level with CERN, paving the way for further development of this relationship.
By becoming an Associate Member of the ALICE Collaboration, the team members are granted access to the internal ALICE documentation and software; access to ALICE meetings; access to ALICE scientific data; certification for the use of the computing grid; and non-voting membership of the ALICE Collaboration Board for the team leader. The University of Malta will contribute to the High Momentum Particle Identification (HMPID) detector, the LHC Interface Project and the O2 upgrade project.
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