Beamline for Schools 2019 participants present results

By Joseph Piergrossi


Hard at work at DESY

Monday, 28 October, marked the completion of data collection for the 2019 Beamline for Schools (BL4S) winning teams on the Hamburg campus of the German physics research centre DESY. Two teams – from Salt Lake City, Utah, in the USA and Groningen in the Netherlands – won the CERN-organised international competition, wherein high-school students propose their own particle physics experiments and perform them if they win.

The teams “DESY Chain” from the USA and “Particle Peers” from the Netherlands also presented their preliminary results last Monday. DESY Chain experimented with scintillator sensitivity using electrons and positrons. “In our data, we’re definitely seeing interesting energy losses in the scintillators,” says Charles Bonkowsky, a member of the DESY Chain team. “It’s going to take a little bit of time to put it all together and see what the energy loss is, and see how it corresponds to the rest of the data.”

Particle Peers investigated differences in particle showers between matter and antimatter. “We didn’t expect to have such big datasets, and so many different datasets,” said Isabelle Koster from Particle Peers. “That was a real bonus. We did everything we wanted to do. And we made so many friends along the way!”

The two teams collaborated closely during their experiment runs, sharing materials and data-processing techniques. Both teams aim to publish their results.

“Knowing how you can come from thinking about an experiment to actually performing it – what detectors to use, what kind of set-up to have – was really helpful,” says Frederiek de Bruine from Particle Peers.

“We have all this data we have to process, but it’s sad that our data-collection journey at DESY has come to an end,” says Derek Che from DESY Chain. “It was an amazing experience. I made new friends and experienced things that will definitely shape my future.”

The two Beamline for Schools winning teams had been selected from 178 entries, and the organisers are hoping for an even stronger showing for next year. Although the DESY and CERN scientists and staff who supported the students are sad to see them go home, they are now gearing up for next year’s competition. In 2020, CERN will once again invite DESY-Hamburg to host two of the winning teams, and discussions are under way to invite a third winning team to a different laboratory in Europe.

Want to join? Preregistration for BL4S 2020 is just a click away.


The Beamline for Schools Competition is an education and outreach project funded by the CERN & Society Foundation, supported by individual donors, foundations and companies. In 2019, the project was partially funded by the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation; additional contributions have been received from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, Amgen Switzerland AG as well as the Ernest Solvay Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation.