Cindy Workman (402) 280-2969

OMAHA, Neb.– Three Creighton University faculty members and two students from the Department of Physics are part of an exciting project looking for unobserved matter at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have begun detecting head-on collisions between gold nuclei in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the world’s newest and biggest particle accelerator for studies in nuclear physics.

The collider aims to recreate the conditions of the early universe to gain insights into the fundamental nature of matter.

Creighton physics professors Dr. Michael Cherney, Fr. Thomas McShane, S.J., and Dr. Janet Seger are responsible for much of the collection and analysis of project data. Students Dylan Thein from Memphis, Tenn., and James Fiedler of Scranton, Iowa, worked on the hardware controls system of the RHIC.

The first spectacular images of particles streaming from a collision were produced by the STAR detector Monday night and collisions also were seen by the PHOBOS detector early Tuesday.

Scientists will use data collected during the collisions to explore particles known as quarks and gluons that make up protons and neutrons. The high temperatures and densities achieved in the collisions should, for a fleeting moment, allow the quarks and gluons to exist “freely” in a soup-like plasma, a state of matter that is believed to have existed millionths of a second after the Big Bang, when the universe first formed.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory is the only facility in the world where physicists can do this kind of research. RHIC’s unique capabilities stem from its size and dual-ring design.

Creighton graduate and undergraduate students have spent time at Brookhaven and have worked in the computer labs at Creighton on control and data analysis software for STAR. Though a relatively small group, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Physics Group at Creighton is solely responsible for coordinating the monitoring and control of the experiment.

Five other institutions are offering collaborative support to help Creighton’s group with the responsibility of collecting, storing and monitoring the data provided by 30,000 sensors. Dozens more institutions will collaborate on the endless job of data analysis.

Funded by the United States Department of Energy and constructed by Brookhaven Lab, the RHIC complex builds upon Brookhaven’s preexisting chain of accelerators.

Creighton is an independent Catholic university operated by the Jesuits. It has been ranked No. 1 for the past four years among Midwestern universities in U.S. News & World Report magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition.

Creighton enrolls approximately 6,300 students in the College of Arts and Sciences and Business Administration, the Graduate School, University College and the schools of Nursing, Medicine, Law, Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, Dentistry and Summer Sessions.