High Energy Particle Visiting Physicist

Iowa Now

A 2004 graduate from Bettendorf High School, James Wetzel was the Bettendorf Community Schools Foundation Visiting Science Scholar on Jan. 27. Wetzel spoke to science classes as well as the general public about his work as an experimental high energy particle physics.

Wetzel grew up in Bettendorf; he went to Mark Twain Elementary, graduated from the high school then he went on to the University of Iowa, where he received a doctorate in physics.

Now, Wetzel is the CEO of a start up design company, and teaches at Coe College, Augustana College, and at Iowa. He still does research at U of I, and helps with big experiments with thousands of other scientists. Also, one of his 3-D designs of a CMS was on the “Big Bang Theory.”

The big experiments that Wetzel worked on were the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid). The LHC is a 27 kilometre ring of superconducting magnets. Inside the accelerator two high energy particle beams travel close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in different directions and in two different tubes that are kept at ultrahigh vacuum. There are thousands of magnets that are used to direct the beams around the accelerator. The LHC is the largest machine in the world, and it took many years to plan and build the machine.

The CMS is a general purpose detector at the LHC; it has a wide range of physic programs. It ranges to standard model all the way to extra dimensions and dark matter.The purpose of the CMS is to record collision data of the two high energy particle beams, but uses different solutions and magnets than the ATLAS. The CMS has a superconducting cable that generates a field about 100,000 times the magnetic field of Earth. The magnetic field is contained by steel which created the bulk and weighs about 14,000 tons. The machine was built above ground and lowered into the ground into 15 different sections. Each piece weighs over 12 tons, and the scientists have to put all the pieces together after they are lowered.

“The scientists moved around these many ton pieces like a puck on an air hockey table,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel grew up in Bettendorf. He is an accomplished professional musician and has collaborated on a public art installation. He is a proponent of combining the arts and sciences.


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