Nobel Conference 49 Profile of Tara Shears

Posted on April 30th, 2013 by

What are the basic building blocks of matter? And how does the macroscopic universe as we encounter it today arise from their interactions? Our current best answers to these questions are given by the Standard Model of particle physics, according to which there are twelve kinds of fundamental particles of matter (the quarks and the leptons), four kinds of particles that carry fundamental forces (the gauge bosons), and one kind of particle responsible for the existence of mass (the Higgs boson).

Much of the experimental work on the Standard Model is carried out at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator. Dr. Tara Shears, a professor of physics at the University of Liverpool, is a member of the LHCb experiment at the LHC, where she initiated the QCD, Electroweak and Exotica Physics working group. She is also one of the foremost public ambassadors for the LHC and for the science of particle physics generally. Dr. Shears’s research focuses on using the LHC to experimentally test the Standard Model and to explore some of the questions that the model leaves unresolved.

The LHC fires two beams of protons toward each other at speeds just shy of the speed of light, and the colliding protons briefly recreate conditions that prevailed in the universe just after the Big Bang. Dr. Shears examines the production and behavior of W and Z bosons and of beauty quarks in the resulting stew of high-energy particles. Precisely characterizing W and Z bosons allows her to test predictions that the Standard Model makes about the unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces. Detailing the behavior of beauty quarks may offer clues as to why the universe is made of matter rather than anti-matter.

Dr. Shears earned her PhD in particle physics from Cambridge University, and before taking up her professorship at Liverpool she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Manchester, a CERN fellowship, and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at Liverpool. In addition to her work with LHCb, Dr. Shears has worked on the ATLAS experiment (also at LHC), the OPAL experiment at CERN’s Large Electron Positron Collider, and the CDF experiment at Fermilab’s Tevatron collider.

Please join us for Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits,” on October 1 & 2, to learn more about Dr. Shears’s work on the fundamental bits of the universe. Tickets are now on sale. For ticket information and information about the conference, the speakers, and the Nobel concert, visit


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