Raymond Brock | University Distinguished Professor 2011 | MSU | WKAR PBS

Uploaded by wkar on 12.10.2011

My field of study is called elementary particle physics. What we do is among the most fundamental
studies of nature that basically can be done. We want to know what happened at the very
beginning of the universe, and this is intimately connected with the identities of those particles
that might have been in existence naturally during those times. We call them particles.
That's a metaphor, because of course elementary objects are very complicated quantum mechanical
objects. But they behave like particles, so we think of bigger balls in our heads when
we think about these objects. We have to push a number of boundaries sort of simultaneously.
We have to push boundaries of electronics. We have to push boundaries of particle detection.
We have to push boundaries of how to accelerate charged particles to very high intensities
and very high energies. And we have to push boundaries in computing. Probably only one
in four graduate students who work with us and eventually get a PHD in elementary particle
physics, continue to work in basic research at all. The rest of them all go out and become
productive members of society, taking the knowledge and the experience that they've
had in their PHD training, which most of them went into because they were interested in
the questions. But they prefer to go out and do other things with the skills that they
learned, so they seed our economy in a variety of ways. Any scientist will tell you the real
work that goes on in a lab is done by students. And what they bring is the energy and the
new ideas, often, to solving both technical as well as computing as well as just sort
of logical, 'how do we get from here to there?' problems.