I am very happy today because I have been notified by the European Community that a project I submitted for funding as coordinator last January has been evaluated very positively by the EU reviewers. The project is a training network of universities and research centres in Europe, with participation of two additional academic partners and four industrial partners from the US, Russia, Italy and Belgium. The network name is "AMVA4NewPhysics", and it aims at developing and applying cutting-edge statistical learning tools to new physics and Englert-Higgs boson studies to the LHC data collected by ATLAS and CMS.
The network is composed by Oxford University, the Italian INFN, the CP3 center at the Universite' de Louvain, the University Blaise-Pascal of Clermont-Ferrand in France, the Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Physics of Lisbon, the Institute of Accelerating Systems and Applications of Athens, the University of Padova, and CERN. A couple of design choices make the network innovative and potentially a very successful one: the participation of experimentalists as well as phenomenologists; the participation of statisticians (in Padova and in the partner university of Lausanne); and the simultaneous presence of ATLAS and CMS.
The abstract of the project is reported below, in the hope that it clarifies what is the focus of the network:
With the 2012 discovery of the Englert-Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider, LHC, the Standard Model of particle physics has been completed, emerging as a most successful description of matter at the smallest distance scales. But as is always the case, the observation of this particle has also heralded the dawn of a new era in the field: particle physics is now turning to the mysteries posed by the presence of dark matter in the universe, as well as the very existence of the Englert-Higgs boson. The upcoming run of the LHC at 13 TeV will probe possible answers to both issues, providing detailed measurements of the properties of the Higgs and extending significantly the sensitivity to new phenomena. Since the LHC is the only accelerator currently exploring the energy frontier, it is imperative that the analyses of the collected data use the most powerful possible techniques. In recent years several analyses have utilized multi-variate analysis techniques, obtaining higher sensitivity; yet there is ample room for further improvement. With our programme we will import and specialize the most powerful advanced statistical learning techniques to data analyses at the LHC, with the objective of maximizing the chance of new physics discoveries. We aim at creating a network of European institutions to foster the development and exploitation of Advanced Multi-Variate Analysis (AMVA) for New Physics searches. The network will offer extensive training in both physics and advanced analysis techniques to graduate students, focusing on providing them with the know-how and the experience to boost their career prospects in and outside academia. The network will develop ties with non-academic partners for the creation of interdisciplinary software tools, allowing a successful knowledge transfer in both directions. The network will study innovative techniques and identify their suitability to problems encountered in searches for new physics at the LHC and detailed studies of the Englert-Higgs boson sector.
The sizable funds we have been granted (2.4M euro) will allow us to hire 10 Ph.D. students and carry out our research for four years, during which we will organize workshops and schools. We will concentrate our activities on seven "work packages", which are titled as follows:
1 - MVA for Higgs Studies
2 - MVA for new physics searches
3 - Advancing the Matrix Element Method
4 - New statistical learning tools for HEP analysis
5 - Career development and interdisciplinarity
6 - Outreach activities
7 - Management activities
Of the above, the first four are those foreseeing the real "action"; but notably, there is a package directly related to outreach - in fact, among other things it envisions a blog which will report the progress of our researchers in their development of statistical tools and in the analysis of the data (whenever possible given the strict privacy policies of ATLAS and CMS!).
Speaking of the blog, I must say I am particularly pleased by the fact that the evaluation report of the EU officers highlighted, in the "strong points" recognized in our project, the importance of blogging for outreach, with the following sentence:
The network coordinator is a well-known and much-read blogger and thus has hands-on experience with the dissemination of scientific results to the public at large.
In a sense this shows a fact that is well-known to me: the concept that scientists spend some of their time blogging is a polarizing issue. Some love it, others hate it. My project must have ended up in the hands of a reviewer who appreciates the importance of blogs for the dissemination of science! This is very welcome as I have most of the times suffered from bad feedback of censors who belong to the other half of the universe...
Anyway, why should all the above interest you ? Well, that's easy to explain: if you are a young researcher who has not yet obtained a PhD, and are interested in doing research in particle physics and learn quite a bit of advanced statistics tools in the process, you should consider applying to one of the 10 positions we will soon open in Lisbon, Padova, INFN, Athens, Oxford, Louvain, Clermont-Ferrand, and CERN. The positions are paid extremely well, and the training you will receive is of the highest quality on the market. Of this, the 9.52/10 evaluation that the reviewers gave to our project stands as a guarantee. I am told it is a stratospheric result for EU standards!
Do not hurry though. The positions will be broadly advertised, but the hiring process will only start in August-September this year. If you have a strong curriculum and motivation, however, you should make a note to yourself to check this blog again in a few months - our network will announce the openings here (as well as in many other places, including a blog specifically designed for the task).