Particle Physics

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Aug 09 2022

Working in the field of particle physics, you’ll study the smallest elements of matter: elementary particles. You’ll study how elementary particles exist, and how they interact with each other.


What is particle physics?

Particle physics aims to understand the building blocks of matter, and how they interact with each other. To do this, particle physicists design experiments where particles are purposefully made to collide, creating high-energy collisions. Just like crashing two cars together means we can break them apart and see inside, crashing two particles together means physicists can break particles apart. The data gained from these experiments helps scientists come up with new particle theories, which are instrumental in the laws of physics. 

What is the history of particle physics?

The idea that all matter is made of elementary particles comes from at least the 6th century BC. In the 1800s, the scientist John Dalton concluded that each element is made up of a unique type of particle, which he named the atom. Physicists later discovered that atoms are made up of even smaller particles, like protons, neutrons and electrons. 

What is the Standard Model?

The Standard Model is a theory that explains the elementary particles and the four fundamental forces of nature. It is generally understood that the Standard Model, combined with the theory of general relativity, explains the universe. However, although the Standard Model explains the science behind electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force, it cannot explain gravity, the fourth fundamental force of nature. 

What is the Higgs boson?

The Higgs boson is one of the 17 elementary particles that make up the Standard Model of physics. In the 1960’s, Peter Higgs was the first person to suggest the existence of this particle. Its existence was confirmed by scientists in 2013. The Higgs boson is revolutionary because it is the first subatomic particle to be seen by scientists, and is a fundamental building block of the universe. Finding the Higgs boson helps physicists to understand even further how the universe works. 

What is the future of particle physics?

Given the weakness of the Standard Model, many physicists are currently developing a theory that is better than the Standard Model, or different theories that will improve it. This line of research is known as Theoretical particle physics. In addition to this, particle physicists are researching a number of different theories, such as particle decays, dark matter and antimatter. 

What careers are there within particle physics?

There are two types of particle physicists. Theoretical particle physicists develop the mathematical theories behind observed physics, via computer and written mathematical models. Experimental particle physics looks at the observational side of physics, designing and building experiments to discover new particles like the Higgs Boson. Check out our particle physicist job description for more information.