Claim your curiosity.

Alice Bean

Mentor Spotlight | February 2017

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand:  My principal area of research is in experimental particle physics where I’m a member of the CMS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva, Switzerland.   We’ve helped to develop a giant camera that can take data 40 million times a second.  Right now, our KU research group is looking for new fundamental particles decaying to a top quark and a Higgs boson from the massive amounts of data that we’ve collected.  



Q: How did you first get interested in doing research?

A: My parents had mathematical and scientific backgrounds so we were always looking for answers for how things worked when I was growing up.


Q: What do students in your discipline learn by doing research that they wouldn’t learn by just taking classes?

A: We are bombarded by data all day long in all aspects of our lives. With our experiments, we have to learn how to sift through data and throw away data so that we can see small signals within them. We teach techniques for doing so in building electronics as well as using sophisticated software.


Q: What do you find to be the most exciting part of doing research or creative work? What makes this line of work meaningful and interesting to you?

A: I get to work together with people from all over the world and different cultures on problems and solve them.  When we discovered the Higgs boson, a group of 4000 of us enjoyed our group effort where all of us were important. 


Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates interested in doing research in your field?

A: Go talk to a faculty member and find out if you can work with them for a while.


Q: For many students, doing research or a larger creative project is the first time they have done work that routinely involves setbacks and the need to troubleshoot problems.  Can you tell us about a time that your research didn’t go as expected?  Or about any tricks or habits that you’ve developed to help you stay resilient in the face of obstacles?

A: I make sure that I go out for a long, brisk walk with a good view before I send any e-mails I might regret later.


Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?

A: I like to ride bikes, go hiking, or visit neat outdoor places.

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