From ATLAS Around the World: Brief history of Morocco in ATLAS

31 July 2015 | By

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John Ellis, Fairouz Malek and Farida Fassi enjoying afternoon tea during their visit to Fez after successfully training PhD students during the School of High-Energy Physics in Morocco. (Image: CERN)

In 1996, Morocco officially became a member of the ATLAS collaboration. The eagerly awaited day had finally arrived, and the first Arabic and African country signed a collaborative agreement with CERN to participate in the great scientific adventure of particle physics. This achievement was possible thanks to the efforts of a small group of physicists that recognised the potential benefits of collaborating with large accelerator centres.

Motivated to improve science, technology and innovation, the Moroccan High Energy Physics Cluster (RUPHE) founded in 1996 to enhance the scientific training of young people and advances in pure scientific knowledge. RUPHE includes ATLAS collaborators from University of Hassan II Casablanca, Mohammed V University (Rabat), Mohamed I University (Oujda), Cadi Ayyad University (Marrakech) and the National Energy Centre of Science and Nuclear Techniques (CNESTEN) in Rabat.

Morocco’s participation in ATLAS started even before its membership was approved in 1996. In 1992, Moroccan researchers contributed to the construction of a neutron irradiation station. After that, they continued boosting their contribution by playing a key role in the construction, testing and commissioning of the ATLAS Electromagnetic Calorimeter (ECAL) presampler during 1998-2003 period. Since then, Moroccan researchers have been working to strengthen the long-standing cooperation with CERN. Currently, there are 27 faculty members and research assistants, including 9 active PhD students.

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John Ellis visiting Fez during the Advanced School of Physics in the Maghreb in 2011 in Taza. (Image: CERN)

The research interests focus on these topics: the search for new physics phenomena in association with top physics, Higgs physics and B physics, including a significant participation on the detector performance studies. During the LHC’s Run 1, Moroccan researchers contributed to the success of the ATLAS experiment. This success has motivated our researchers to look forward to a very successful Run 2.

In addition, we are involved in the distributed computing effort. During ATLAS data taking periods, user support becomes a challenging task. With many scientists analysing data, user support is becoming crucial to ensure that everyone is able to analyse the collision data distributed among hundreds of computing sites worldwide. The Distributed Analysis Support Team (DAST) is a team of expert shifters who provide the first direct support for all help requests on distributed data analysis. Alden Stradling (University of Texas, Arlington) and I (Mohammed V University) coordinate the overall activity of this team.

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ATLAS Overview Week in Marrakech in 2013 (Image: CERN)

In terms of building local expertise, several schools and workshops have been organized. Outstanding worldwide experts have participated, giving lectures on particle physics, nuclear physics, applied physics and grid computing. Most participants are master’s degree or PhD students already working in these fields, or in related fields and seeking a global dimension to their training. Such schools include: “L’Ecole de Physique Avancée au Maghreb 2011” in Taza, “tutorial training on statistics tools for data analysis” and the “Master of High-Energy Physics and Scientific Computing” in Casablanca. High school students from Oujda participated in the International Masterclasses in March 2015, which aimed to encourage them in doing science, and gave them an introduction to what we do in ATLAS and why it is interesting and exciting.

After the success of the ATLAS Liquid Argon Week organized in Marrakech in 2009, the ATLAS Overview Week for 2013 was hosted in Morocco. It was our great pleasure to invite our ATLAS colleagues to this important event in Marrakech. There were many interesting talks and discussions at the event. We took a brief time out to watch the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics. To our delight, it was awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs for their pioneering work on the electroweak-symmetry-breaking mechanism in 1964. It was a very exciting moment for me.

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The ATLAS Collaboration reacts to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics announcement during ATLAS Week in Marrakech. (Image: CERN)

Farida Fassi