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Our group has established a long-term research program in experimental high-energy physics in the Department of Physics & Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. All research involves a sizable group of graduate and undergraduate students.

Gallery (please click on icons to see animations)

Various Simulations of Cubic-Foot Muon Tomography (MT) Station (all produced by Ben Locke, Will Bittner, and Nathan Mertins):


Muon Tomography Principles.*

Simulation of muons traversing

Cubic Foot Muon Tomography Station.

MT Visualization of uranium blocks arranged in "FIT" shape with GEM detectors shows. Two-axes rotation.

Same scenario as on the left, but with horizontal rotation only.


Zoomed MT visualization of uranium blocks arranged in "FIT" shape without detectors.
MT visualization of small Iron, Lead, and Tantalum objects in a row.

MT visualization of a simulated

3 cm cube of Iron in our minimal

MT station.

Muon Tomography of a 3 cm cube of Iron with our minimal MT station

(real data).


MT visualization of iron, tin, lead, tungsten, and uranium targets arranged as the 5 on a die.
MT visualization of a uranium target within a cylindrical brass shield.


More Minimal Muon Tomography Station Videos

*may need to dowload WMV3 codec to view

LHC Collision Events in CMS:


Dimon Event in pp collision

(courtesy of CERN)

Heavy Ion Collision (Pb on Pb)

(courtesy of CERN)

CMS experiment

LHC Page 1 - live accelerator status

CMS TV - live CMS status

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) searches for the Higgs Boson, multiple dimensions, and particles that could make up dark matter using a general purpose detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.


Z' Search

Many theoretical models for new physics predict the existence of extremely short-lived particles called "resonances". One of these particles, called a Z' ("Z prime") boson, is of particular interest to us. We are involved in the search for this new boson in the dimuon channel at the CMS experiment. Neutral Z' gauge vector bosons are expected to appear at a mass scale on the order of one to several TeV/c2. Such Z' bosons are expected to couple with electroweak strength to Standard Model fermions (quarks and leptons) and would be observed at the LHC as narrow resonances in the dimuon mass spectrum.

An event display of two opposite-signed muons from proton proton collision at 7 TeV center-of-mass energy

Muon Endcap Alignment

We have developed calibration hardware for the alignment of the Endcap Muon Chambers and have calibrated over 400 alignment sensors for the EMU system. The endcap alignment system monitors the positions of a subset of the Cathode Strip Chambers (CSCs) in the two muon endcaps (ME). We have responsibility for producing alignment constants for the endcap chamber using data recorded with the system. On the physics side, we are analyzing data from 7 TeV center-of-mass collisions in a search for Z' bosons in the dimuon channel.

FIT CMS Muon Endcap Alignment Page (old)



Muon Tomography with GEM Detectors

Muon tomography (MT) based on the measurement of multiple scattering of atmospheric cosmic ray muons traversing shipping containers is a promising candidate for identifying threatening made of high-Z material such as uranium and certain special nuclear material might be successfully smuggled across international borders by shielding the emanating radiation to evade detection by the standard radiation portal monitors currently operating at borders and ports. Since position-sensitive detectors with high spatial resolution should be particularly suited for tracking muons in a MT application, we propose to use compact micro-pattern gas detectors, such as gas electron multipliers (GEMs), for muon tomography. We present a detailed GEANT4 simulation of a GEM-based MT station for various scenarios of threat material detection. Cosmic ray muon tracks crossing the material are reconstructed with a point-of-closest-approach algorithm to form 3-D tomographic images of the target material. We investigate acceptance, Z-discrimination capability, effects of placement of high-Z material and shielding materials inside the cargo, and detector resolution effects for such a MT station.

Construction of Triple GEM Detectors at CERN, October 2009

Manual for the CERN Standard 10 cm x 10 cm GEM Detectors.



Pictures from Summer 2009:

Building GEM 30 x 30 detectors at CERN

(courtesy of Amilkar Quintero)


GEANT4 Model of a Cargo Van


Mean Angle (w/o momentum) for GEMs              Scattering Density (w/ momentum) for GEMs



Preparation of our "cubic-foot" Muon Tomography Station in our lab



  • Mike Abercrombie
  • Bryant Benson
  • William Bittner
  • Greg Lovell
  • Ben Locke
  • Nathan Mertins
  • Michael Staib

Grid Computing

The HPC cluster at Florida Tech is two years into development and has met several milestones that effectively finalize its construction and implementation. The system has been upgraded to the latest versions of the Rocks OS and the Condor batch-job manager. In addition to software upgrades, the cluster has been integrated into the Open Science Grid Production grid and has become an official USCMS Tier3 compute element, processing 125,000 hours of CMS data to date. We have also allowed several faculty members to use our resources alongside our own Muon Tomography simulations. The hardware has also been upgraded with top-of-the-line machines and a total of 160 available CPUs. We will detail the final design and performance of the cluster, as well as the core configuration of the system. The concept of Tier3 sites and our participation in the CMS project will be outlined.

Being firmly established on the OSG and contributing computing resources to CMS simulations, our site has become an official Tier 3 CMS site - thus concluding Phase I of the project. We are currently adding a dedicated development node with 64GB RAM for running experimental code that can have large memory footprints (such as Expectation Maximization algorithms). We will also be expanding the types of CMS jobs that the cluster can process, including data sets recorded by the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider.

Visit http://uscms1.fltech-grid3.fit.edu/wiki to follow this project.

  • Kimberly Day
  • Matthew Roof
  • Jordan Robertson

Cosmic Rays & Quarknet Outreach 

QuarkNet is a nationwide outreach program run by Fermilab National Laboratory to help high school Teachers introduce their students to the world of high energy particle physics. Teachers, students, and physicists collaborate to inform students about the science and technology behind detecting cosmic ray muons as well using that data for studies. Here we present how the QuarkNet detectors work as well as several interesting experiments measuring the flux from different detector orientations that we ran on our college campus, the studies we conducted, and some of the results that followed from them. We use scintillator paddles, photomultiplier tubes, a DAQ card, and a computer to detect and capture the data from the cosmic ray muon strikes.

  • Eric Hansen
  • Mike Phipps
  • Jessie Twigger

L3 experiment (Concluded Project)

Florida Tech was a major contributor to physics analyses on photon-photon collisions recorded by the L3 experiment at LEP2, which had been studying e+e- collisions up to center-of-mass energies of 209 GeV. Florida Tech group members were involved in the experiment as early as 1987 participating in the building and operation of the detector as well as data analysis. Using single-tag events, two Ph.D. theses significantly extended the x and Q2 ranges, as well as the precision for the measurement of the leptonic and hadronic photon structure function.

Single-tag analysis of the e+e---> e+e-hadrons deep inelastic scattering reaction: Feynman diagrams showing contributions to the total e+e- cross section.

Last update: E. Ballesty, Sept. 16, 2013