Brussels, 7 July 2012
EU-backed researchers in team behind Higgs boson 'God particle' discovery
Six scientists supported by the European Union's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions for research training and mobility were directly involved in the discovery of the Higgs Boson or so-called 'God Particle', the European Commission confirmed today. The sub-atomic particle, which experts believe is the basis for all matter in the Universe, was identified at CERN, the European nuclear research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. The discovery has been hailed as one of the most important breakthroughs in the history of science. The six scientists are part of an EU-backed initiative, which have received almost €3.5 million in funding.
"We are extremely proud that the team responsible for the find included six of our researchers. It must be every scientist's dream to be part of an achievement like this; I hope it will encourage them to go even further in their quest to expand the frontiers of science - and that their work will inspire the girls and boys who will be our next generation of scientists," said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner who is responsible for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
The six scientists have been working on the 'ACEOLE' project, which made important contributions to the breakthrough. ACEOLE helped to develop the data readout systems used at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator tunnel at CERN, where the particle was identified.
Researchers used the 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider to smash components called protons into each other at close to the speed of light. They then scour minute pieces of the debris for traces of particles that exist for just a fraction of a second before disintegrating. These elusive particles have been the subject of a 45-year search started by Professor Peter Higgs, a renowned UK physicist, to explain how 'matter' –from the stars and planets to every human being and creature in the world – is held together or attains 'mass'.
The six EU-funded scientists involved in the discovery have been supported by a specific EU grant scheme within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: the 'Initial Training Networks', which support leading public and private research organisations in providing top-quality research and skills training for researchers at the earliest stages of their career..
Researchers from another EU-funded project, ‘TALENT’, provided operational support for the experiment. The team is developing measurement tools for a better understanding of the precise nature of the new particle. Other EU-funded researchers supported by the so-called MSCA ‘COFUND’ schemes, which support regional, national and international fellowship programmes, were also indirectly involved in the discovery.
The EU is allocating more than €4.5 billion under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions between 2007 and 2013.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA, formerly known as the Marie Curie Actions) have supported 60 000 researchers of nearly 130 different nationalities since the programme's creation in 1996. More than half of the research supported through the programme is dedicated to societal challenges such as the fight against cancer, climate change and energy scarcity. 38% of the funded researchers are women and SMEs account for more than half of all businesses participating in the projects.
The scheme invests in the training and career development of researchers at every stage from post-graduate level, offering high-quality doctoral training to promote internationally competitive research careers in Europe. The MSCA encourage the mobility of researchers across sectors, disciplines and countries and in this way also contribute to the goals of the EU's 'Youth on the Move' initiative and Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth.
Under the European Commission's proposal for "Horizon 2020", the new EU research programme for 2014-2020, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions will receive € 5.75 billion in funding to train 50,000 new researchers.
The scheme is managed by the Research Executive Agency (REA), an EU funding body attached to the European Commission since 2009.
Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU