Profile: Jamie Ray, a high schooler on the Higgs hunt
Jamie Ray, a 2009 graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy, works with Craig Group at CDF.
When Jamie Ray arrived at the CDF trailers at the start of 11th grade, he was a little overwhelmed.
"Back then, all I knew about particle physics was from books," he said, "and books don't talk about sitting down with a million events to analyze."
That was nearly two years ago, on Ray's first day in an independent research program for students at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, the magnet high school that Fermilab Director Emeritus Leon Lederman founded in 1985. Through IMSA's Student Inquiry and Research program, Ray signed up to spend every Wednesday analyzing CDF experiments with a Fermilab scientist.
It didn't take long for Ray to get over his intimidation and get to work. His mentor, CDF scientist Craig Group, was confident that the Ray and fellow IMSA students would make valuable contributions to Fermilab research.
"We don't give them projects we've already worked out, so we learn a lot from the problems they run into," Group said. "We're trying to understand things at the same time that they are."
After a few weeks of learning computer programming languages, Ray delved into some data on his own, initially focusing on Z boson decays. In the summer after his junior year, Ray worked full-time at CDF.
"What sets Jamie apart is that he's not afraid of a hard problem," Group said. "He's happy to spend all day on a difficult project without getting frustrated."
During his senior year, Ray's focus shifted to one of the hottest topics in modern science -- the hunt for the Higgs boson. His name will appear as a co-author on an upcoming Physical Review Letters paper about that search.
In the fall, Ray will head to Stanford University. Picking a major won't be easy -- Ray's interests stretch from engineering to history to philosophy -- but physics is a possibility, he said. In any case, he will not forget his time at Fermilab.
"At first, I didn't think I'd be able to make a meaningful contribution," he explained. "It's satisfying to know I've done useful work here."
-- Rachel Carr