In March of last year, sci­en­tists working with the Large Hadron Col­lider at the Euro­pean Orga­ni­za­tion for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzer­land iden­ti­fied the Higgs boson, the last elu­sive par­ticle in the Stan­dard Model of physics. The Higgs par­ticle, said North­eastern assis­tant pro­fessor of physics Toyoko Ori­moto, one of the sci­en­tists on the team, can be used to explain how ele­men­tary par­ti­cles acquire mass. “Before the dis­covery of the Higgs boson, the Stan­dard Model was like a puzzle with one piece missing,” she said, “and you kind of know what that piece will look like.”

Ori­moto hopes the Large Hadron Col­lider will be able to address many more unan­swered ques­tions in physics. “The Higgs par­ticle is inter­esting,” she said, “but what really cap­tures my imag­i­na­tion is thinking about pos­si­bil­i­ties beyond the Stan­dard Model.”

Backed by an Early Career Award from the Depart­ment of Energy, Ori­moto hopes to begin exploring those other possibilities.

For her, the two biggest ques­tions still left unan­swered by the Stan­dard Model are gravity and dark matter. “Dark matter and dark energy make up more than 95 per­cent of the uni­verse, and yet the Stan­dard Model doesn’t address them,” she said.

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