Grenfell student to work on Large Hadron Collider

Diane Crocker
Published on February 10, 2014
Corner Brook resident Jessica Strickland will be travelling to Geneva, Switzerland this summer to work at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Geraldine Brophy

Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland promotes itself as the place to find your corner.

Jessica Strickland found hers in the physics department.

And now the Corner Brook resident will be travelling to Geneva, Switzerland this summer to work at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Strickland, 21, is currently in the third year of the physics program at the university.

“When I first came to Grenfell I really wanted to go into education, but then I realized how much I loved academia itself. And I really like physics and geography,” said Strickland.

“I guess the fact that it’s kind of everything. It’s literally the world. It’s like understanding the world around you and just figuring out how it all works, or trying to anyway,” she said, the passion for the field coming through her voice.

Last summer Strickland received a research award that allowed her to get more experience in the field. She worked with Aleksandrs Aleksejevs, one of her professors at Grenfell, on the properties of dark matter.

“Then I realized that I really loved research,” she said.

“It’s never ending and it’s just so much fun to be able to solve problems like that.”

Once she completes her degree, Strickland would like to further her studies and obtain both masters and doctorates in physics.

But for now she’s just really looking forward to getting to Switzerland and to nucleur research facility where physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe.

The opportunity to do so comes from the Institute of Particle Physics’ Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Strickland said she never expected to be selected for the scholarship.

“Because it was very competitive.” She’s one of five students who’ll get to participate.

From May to June, Strickland will travel to another university in Canada to be prepped to work at the nuclear research facility. When she finally arrives there in late June, and until she leaves at the end of August, Strickland will get to work on the organization’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

She still has to choose a project to work on and one of interest is investigating more properties of the Higgs Boson, an elementary particle whose discovery was announced at the facility in July 2012.

Strickland wasn’t certain of the exact value of the scholarship, but said “even if the money wasn’t involved, I’m pretty sure that I’d still go.

“This is huge for being in my third year. I think getting that research experience last summer really helped and I work really hard to get the grades I do.”

Strickland maintains her A average by studying at least six hours a day outside of class time.

“It’s not hard to be dedicated to something you really like,” she said.