Pakistani Research Scientist Working at CERN Lab, Switzerland

One of the most important discoveries in Physics since Einstein's Theory of Relativity has possibly just been made at CERN and dozens of Pakistani scientists have contributed to it.

Scientists at CERN claim that they have discovered the Higgs field, also nicknamed the "God particle" that travels faster than light, thereby proving Einstein wrong, according to the Associated Press reports.

"The feeling that most people have is this can't be right, this can't be real," the AP story quotes James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

The most high-profile effort to find "God Particle" is taking place about 300 ft below ground in a tunnel at the French-Swiss border. Buried there is a massive particle accelerator and super collider called LHC (Large Hadron Collider) run by the Swiss lab CERN (European Organization of Nuclear Research), which has two beams of particles racing at nearly the speed of light in opposite directions and the resulting particles produced from collisions are being detected by massive detectors in the hope of experimentally finding the fundamental particle of which everything in the universe is built from: God Particle.

Among the world scientists working at CERN on LHC project is Professor Hafeez Hoorani of Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He is one of 27 Pakistani scientists at CERN.CERN is the most highly respected research lab in Switzerland responsible for LHC. He acknowledges that Pakistan government's support for Pakistani scientists' serious involvement at CERN materialized only after 1999, the year former President Musharraf's government assumed power. He also gives credit to Dr. Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate, for inspiring him and his colleagues to pursue serious scientific research. Here's what Professor Hoorani says about Pakistan's involvement in LHC and CERN:

When I first came to CERN, I was mainly working on technical things but became increasingly involved in political issues. In 1999, I went back to Pakistan to set up a group working on different aspects of the LHC project. There I had to convince my people and my government to collaborate with CERN, which was rather difficult, since nobody associated science with Switzerland. It is known as a place for tourism, for its watches, and nice places to visit.

However, Pakistan already had an early connection to CERN through the late Abdus Salam, the sole Nobel laureate from Pakistan in science and one of the fathers of the electroweak theory. CERN has been known to the scientific community of Pakistan since 1973 through the discovery of neutral currents which eventually led to the Nobel Prize for Salam. We are contributing much more now because of the students who worked with Salam, who know his theories and CERN, and who are now placed at highly influential positions within the government of Pakistan. They have helped and pushed Pakistan towards a very meaningful scientific collaboration with CERN. People now know that there is an organization called CERN. It took a long time to explain what CERN is about, and I brought many people here to show them, because they did not imagine CERN this way. Many people support us now which gives us hope…”

In addition to the 27 scientists, Pakistan has made material contributions to the tune of $10m. Pakistan signed an agreement with CERN which doubled the Pakistani contribution from one to two million Swiss francs. And with this new agreement Pakistan started construction of the resistive plate chambers required for the CMS muon system. While more recently, a protocol has been signed enhancing Pakistan’s total contribution to the LHC program to $10 million.

CERN is a pan-European effort and all of its member states are European. Pakistan, with all of its contributions to LHC project, is hoping to join the ranks of India, Israel, Japan, Russia, Turkey and United States as an observer state at CERN.

Pakistan has contributed the LHC in numerous ways including some of the following in particular:

1. Detector construction
2. Detector simulation
3. Physics analysis
4. Grid computing
5. Computational software development
6. Manufacturing of mechanical equipment
7. Alignment of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) tracker using lasers
8. Testing of electronic equipment
9. Barrel Yoke: 35 Ton each feet made in Pakistan
10. Assembly of CF (Carbon Fiber) Fins for the Silicon Tracker’s TOB (Tracker Outer Barrel).
11. 245 of the 300 CMS chambers required were made in Islamabad.

The Higgs boson, also known as "God Particle", is a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. It is the only Standard Model particle not yet experimentally observed. An experimental observation of it would help to explain how otherwise massless elementary particles cause matter to have mass. More specifically, the Higgs boson would explain the difference between the massless photon and the relatively massive W and Z bosons. Elementary particle masses, and the differences between electromagnetism (caused by the photon) and the weak force (caused by the W and Z bosons), are critical to many aspects of the structure of microscopic (and hence macroscopic) matter; thus, if it exists, the Higgs boson is an integral and pervasive component of the material world.

The Standard Model of particle physics has its limits. It can't explain several big mysteries about the universe that have their roots in the minuscule world of particles and forces. If there's one truly extraordinary concept to emerge from the past century of inquiry, it's that the cosmos we see was once smaller than an atom. This is why particle physicists talk about cosmology and cosmologists talk about particle physics: Our existence, our entire universe, emerged from things that happened at the smallest imaginable scale. The big bang theory tells us that the known universe once had no dimensions at all—no up or down, no left or right, no passage of time, and laws of physics beyond our vision.

There have been many other efforts to build particle accelerators and supercolliders including SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator) and Fermi Collider, but none so ambitious and massive as the LHC. This discovery, if indeed confirmed, will advance human knowledge dramatically and eventually help treat diseases, improve the Internet, and open doors to travel through extra dimensions, according to the scientists associated with it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Joint CERN-Pakistan Meeting 2011

Pakistanis Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation Rates

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman on HEC's Role in Pakistan

CERN Website


CERN and the LHC Program

National Geographic

WTF Website

PAEC Newsletter
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  • up

    Riaz Haq

    Here's a Dawn report on an emerging science city in Karachi:

    ....Of these five centers, one is the only institute for human clinical trials in Pakistan, the other a core of computational biology and the third provides consultancy to people suffering from genetic diseases.


    The centers and their growth have been working towards what has been termed as a ‘silent revolution’ and had been described by Professor Wolfgang Voelter of Tubingen University as a ‘miracle.’

    The Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry was only a small post graduate institute before a generous donation of Rs 5 million in 1976 set the center towards the path of excellence. Latif Ebrahim Jamal’s endowment, on behalf of the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Foundation, was the largest private funding for science in Pakistan at the time.

    The center houses old NMR machines of 300 megahertz to state-of-the-art Liquid Chromatograph Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (LCNMR).

    Under the leadership of eminent chemist Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui and Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, the institute became a magnet for more funding and projects from around the world. Over a period of time, it received $30 million in funding from various countries. Recently, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) donated $ 40 million for research on regional and tropical diseases. Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, a renowned chemist and the former chairman of Higher Education Commission said,

    Currently, the center has one of the largest PhD programs in the country in the fields of natural product chemistry, plant biotechnology, computational biology, spectroscopy and other disciplines at the frontiers of science.

    Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
    Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
    The ground floor of the institute holds 12 state-of-the-art Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machines that are vital in the research of the structure, reaction and other properties of various compounds and molecules, as well as an X-ray crystallography setup which uses X-rays to learn the structure of crystalline material.

    The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
    The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
    “We have recently finished the structure of a compound showing anti-inflammatory activity,” said Sammer Yousuf, senior research officer at the institute who was awarded the Regional Prize for Young Scientists by the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2011 for her work.

    “In the last two and a half years our institute was awarded 24 international patents,” Dr Rehman proudly adds.

    Since its inception, the HEJ which was inducted into the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) in the ‘90s has produced hundreds of doctorates, thousands of papers and hundreds of international patents, and also helps over 350 industries across Pakistan. The Industrial Analytical Center at the HEJ provides testing, consultancy and research for various industries in Pakistan.

    The construction of a state-of-the-art center for nanotechnology is underway while the Jamil-ur-Rehman Center for Genome Research, also falling under HEJ, is almost complete. The center, named after Dr Rehman’s father who was the main donor of the institute, already houses modern gene sequencing machines.

    • up

      Riaz Haq

      It's the birthday of Abdus Salam, who was born in 1926 in Jhang, a rural community in what is now Pakistan. Salam attended Punjab University and then Cambridge University, where he earned a PhD in 1952. In the 1960s, he and, independently, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg identified a symmetry that is shared in a class of field theories by the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. The symmetry implied that the two forces are really different manifestations of the same force, which Salam named electroweak. Glashow, Salam and Weinberg's unification also predicted the existence of two bosons: W, which mediates beta decay, and Z, which mediates the transfer of momentum, spin and energy in neutrino scattering. In 1973 a clear manifestation of the Z was discovered in CERN's Gargamelle bubble chamber. Six years later Glashow, Salam and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Salam was also a founder of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, which has supported the studies of physicists from the developing world since its founding in 1964. 

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        Riaz Haq

        New #IAEA Collaborating Centre in #Pakistan for #Nuclear #Technology. Partnership with PIAES in 3 key areas: Modelling and simulations with verification and validation capabilities, experimental nuclear #engineering, and education and training.

        With a cooperation agreement signed today, the IAEA has designated the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) as an IAEA Collaborating Centre to support Member States on research, development and capacity building in the application of advanced and innovative nuclear technologies.

        Islamabad-based PIAES is one of Pakistan’s leading public research university in engineering and nuclear technology and a major nuclear research facility of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

        “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of education and training for building the capacity of Member States in this field,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, at the signing ceremony at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters. “Through this network, the Agency encourages scientific studies and cooperation across Member States, making the centres a key IAEA cooperation mechanism.”

        This partnership with PIAES is based on a holistic and multidisciplinary approach in three key areas: modelling and simulations with verification and validation capabilities, experimental nuclear engineering, and education and training. Member States will strengthen their capacities in reactor technology design, nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems, and reactor numerical modelling and simulations.

        “We are first and foremost a university, so academics and research and development is at the heart of what we do,” underlined Nasirmajid Mirza, Rector of PIAES. “It will be rewarding to further build and develop capacity in nuclear technology and non-electric applications of nuclear energy and teach it to those who want to learn.”

        IAEA Collaborating Centres
        Through the Collaborating Centres network, Member States can assist the IAEA by undertaking original research and development and training relating to nuclear science, technologies and their safe and secure applications. With the newly designated Collaborating Centre PIAES in Pakistan, there are now 43 active Collaborating Centres worldwide, with ongoing discussions in several countries to establish new Centres.