The University of Winnipeg



Physics student off to Switzerland

Two students, seated and wearing university sweaters, make a thumbs-up gesture in front of a bank of computer monitors.

Thomas Hepworth, right, flashes a thumbs-up alongside fellow student Kyle Drury in front of a bank of control screens at TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre in British Columbia.

A University of Winnipeg undergraduate student is spending the summer conducting experiments at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

Thomas Hepworth is one of six students across Canada, and the second student in UWinnipeg history, to land a summer student fellowship from the Institute of Particle Physics (IPP).

Hepworth will spend July and August at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland. Students selected for IPP fellowship get to work with active research groups at CERN and attend a series of lectures prepared by CERN-based researchers.

I was pretty excited and told my friends and family when I got home.

Thomas Hepworth

CERN is the birthplace of the World Wide Web and the home of the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider. CERN also houses several smaller particle accelerators and decelerators.

Hepworth will be conducting experiments at CERN’s anti-proton decelerator. He will work on BASE, the Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment, finding ways to test the fundamental symmetries of nature.

“This area at CERN produces anti-protons, and then they trap these anti-protons and measure their fundamental properties, such as their magnetic moment and charge-to-mass ratio,” he explained.

Hepworth is excited to visit Europe for the first time. He has had his eye on an IPP fellowship since he stumbled across it in a workshop on scholarship opportunities more than two years ago.

“I saw that in my first year and it seemed pretty cool to get to go to Switzerland for a job,” he said. “It was kind of something that motivated me.”

Dr. Jeff Martin, Professor of Physics and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Fundamental Symmetries in Subatomic Physics, encouraged Hepworth to apply.

“Thomas really deserves this award,” Dr. Martin said. “He’s one of the hardest working students I know. Having the opportunity to be at the centre of the world’s particle physics research will open up so many new opportunities for him. He’s well on his way to a successful career in science.”

Hepworth was in the thick of midterm exams when he found out he had won.

“I was pretty stressed out about it and convinced I wasn’t going to get it,” he recalled. “Then I got the email and I was pretty excited and told my friends and family when I got home.”

Summer at CERN follows spring at TRIUMF

Geneva isn’t the only flight Hepworth is boarding. He spent May and June at TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre in Vancouver, B.C.

Hepworth worked on Dr. Martin’s TUCAN (TRIUMF UltraCold Advanced Neutron) project. It was Hepworth’s third time at TRIUMF. Experience there is a prerequisite for an IPP fellowship.

In addition to being surrounded by top-notch research, Hepworth said networking is one of the biggest benefits to being at places like TRIUMF and CERN.

“These are very global institutions. You get to meet a lot of people from fields I’m interested in, who have connections at different universities all over the world.”

Hepworth said he’s thankful for the research opportunities available to him as an undergraduate.

“UWinnipeg definitely leverages that well for its students.”

Competing against PhD students

Five people stand in a row holding certificates.

Hepworth, second from right, with fellow winners of the Nuclear Physics oral presentation competition at the Canadian Association of Physicists Annual Congress in London, Ont.

The research trips to B.C. and Switzerland cap off a banner year for Hepworth, who in May attended the Canadian Association of Physicists Annual Congress in London, Ont. He placed third in a Nuclear Physics oral presentation competition, beating out master’s and PhD students from across Canada.

“I gave a talk on the measurements of a magnetically shielded room,” Hepworth said. 

Last fall, he also received a 2023 Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA). Hepworth will return to UWinnipeg this fall to complete his fourth and final year of undergraduate studies and then pursue graduate studies in physics in Canada, the United States, or Europe.

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