ATLAS without Frontiers

The ATLAS Collaboration within the Physics without Frontiers programme

14 December 2021 | By

For several years, the ICTP Physics Without Frontiers (PWF) programme has been heavily involved with outreach activities to inspire, train and educate young and motivated physics students worldwide. So far, more than 7000 students across four continents have benefited from the activities organised by PWF. These activities include hands-on workshops, schools and courses at universities for local undergraduate and Masters students. The goal is to give the students access to research fields that they would not otherwise have access to, to help build the next generation of scientists.

What is interesting about PWF is that it is a volunteer-based network of scientists that gather together and organise the projects. We have people coming from all levels: from PhD students and postdoctoral researchers to lecturers – all sharing a common passion for outreach. It is therefore not surprising to see several members of the ATLAS Collaboration very active in this network.

PWF activities held at Salahaddin University (Iraq). (Image: A. Abed Abud/ATLAS Collaboration)

As part of the PWF activities, I recently volunteered to teach in a school in the northern region of Iraq (Kurdistan region). The school was hosted at Salahaddin University in the city of Erbil where more than 40 students attended the event in person and/or connected virtually. The focus of the school was to give an introduction as well as to highlight recent developments in particle physics and cosmology from experts in the field connecting from the US, Switzerland, Greece and Italy. Several members of the ATLAS Collaboration presented at the PWF event in Iraq, where topics included an introduction to particle physics, Dark Matter or my own talk on the data-acquisition system of the ATLAS experiment. Overall, the event was extremely successful as we managed to initiate wider discussions on many different topics. We also organised a virtual tour of the ATLAS detector, as well as a session for the International Masterclasses in particle physics. It was great to see so many students using real ATLAS data to get hands-on experience as a particle physicist.

When young people get the opportunity to train at leading science facilities – like CERN and ICTP – they can help spread scientific understanding when they return home to train their colleagues.

Improving access to science education through such programmes is not just good for students, it is good for science. Inclusion and diversity are at the heart of the ATLAS Collaboration. The success of our research is based on the creativity and passion of each international member.

This was a message also shared by “The Walk”, a travelling art event in support of refugees that visited CERN this autumn. The Walk is represented by Little Amal who is a 3.5-metre-tall puppet representing a young girl travelling over 8000 kilometres to promote hope for refugees. Little Amal is a symbol of all the displaced children who have fled war and persecution and need access to education to rebuild their lives.

Welcoming Little Amal to CERN. (Image: A. Abed Abud/ATLAS Collaboration)

When Little Amal arrived at CERN, she was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd. I was there to meet her in person, under the PWF umbrella, and we talked about embracing diversity and inclusion as a symbol of strength. We also touched on the important message that science is a uniting force, a human endeavour to understand the Universe. When young people get the opportunity to train at leading science facilities – like CERN and ICTP – they can help spread scientific understanding when they return home to train their colleagues.

PWF is always working hard to train, inspire, motivate and support young and curious students worldwide. As a member of the ATLAS Collaboration, it was an enriching experience to take part in several PWF activities and promote the values of inclusion and diversity. I am looking forward to participating in more outreach activities in the future as this is also an important part of our job as scientists.