Skip to main content


The History of High Energy Nuclear and Particle Physics at the University of Rochester

Our tradition in research at the energy frontier dates back to the mid 1930s, when Lee DuBridge and Sidney Barnes built one of the world's first cyclotrons. In the 1940s and 1950s, this line of research continued using both cosmic rays and the "large" 130-inch Rochester Cyclotron, then a very powerful machine that made possible some of the first investigations of pi mesons. Studies of the nucleus during this period were conducted initially on the first cyclotron, eventually rebuilt by Harry Fulbright, and later on a tandem Van de Graaff. In the realm of theoretical physics, the V-A theory of the Weak Interactions of Marshak and Sudarshan, Regge's ideas about a continuous angular-momentum variable, and the Gell-Mann--Okubo mass formula of SU(3) were all discovered here. The "Higgs" mechanism for spontaneous symmetry breaking was developed by Rochester faculty member Hagen in collaboration with Guralnik, and Kibble. Among the many important breakthroughs in experimental physics during this period, we cite the first evidence for polarization in nucleon scattering, the measurement of the spin of the charged pion, and the earliest work on sonic and spark chambers.

The initiation of the "Rochester Conferences" by Robert Marshak in the early 1950s, and his commitment to international cooperation in science, made the Rochester campus an early and vital focal point for nuclear and particle physics. Now the biennial conferences are known as the International Conference for High Energy Physics.  Over the years, many outstanding graduate students in nuclear and particle physics have been attracted to Rochester. Besides Okubo, Regge and Sudarshan, exceptionally successful Rochester graduates in these fields include Allan Bromley, Ernest Courant, Robert Dicke, Masatoshi Koshiba, Albert Messiah and Bunji Sakita.

Today, our research in particle physics is no longer conducted using accelerators located on campus, but rather at national and international accelerator facilities, including Fermilab near Chicago, the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota, Kitt Peak in Arizona, CERN in Switzerland, and JPARC in Japan.

Recently completed experimental programs at the Fermilab Tevatron included studies of the top quark, W and Z bosons, and the search for the Higgs and supersymmetric particles at the CDF (Profs. Bodek and McFarland) and D0 experiments (Profs. Demina, Ferbel, Garcia-Bellido and Slattery). Our previous high energy neutrino experimental effort with the NuTeV detector at Fermilab has shifted to lower energies (Profs. Bodek, and McFarland). Our past experimental programs at electron-positron colliders included studies of the properties of the bottom and charm quarks and properties of the tau lepton at the CLEO experiment at the Cornell Electron Storage Ring, then at the BES III experiment at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, China (Professor Thorndike).  There was investigation of physics possibilities at the next International Electron-Positron Linear Collider (ILC) (Profs. Manly and Orr), and also research on the development of electron beams for future linear accelerators.

On the theoretical side, past research has included investigation of the foundations of Quantum Field Theories (Profs. Das, Hagen and Rajeev), the phenomenological application of theory to experiment (Professor Orr), nonlinear integrable models (Professor Das) and non-associative algebras (Professor Okubo).

Past  projects closely associated intellectually with high energy physics involve searches for dark matter with the liquid xenon detectors of Zeplin at the Boulby mine (Profs. Ferbel, Schroeder and Wolfs), and searches for gravitational waves at high frequency with the LIGO gravitational wave detector (Professor Melissinos). We were also involved in the search for/characterization of the quark-gluon plasma with the PHOBOS experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Lab that studied the patterns in the transverse production of particles (Profs. Manly and Wolfs).


Go to the High Energy Physics page.