A team of University of Florida researchers who played a significant role in proving the existence of the Higgs boson – the so-called God particle — is celebrating today to mark the announcement that the Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to the two scientists who nearly 50 years ago theorized the Higgs’ existence.

The UF High-Energy Experimental Group, led by distinguished professor Guenakh (pronounced GAY-na) Mitselmakher and comprising about 40 people – nine faculty and more than 30 research personnel and students — is one of the largest U.S. groups involved in the experiment in Geneva, Switzerland, that found the Higgs in July 2012.

“Almost 20 years ago, the University of Florida and the department of physics leaders made a very significant investment by hiring several faculty who formed the core of the UF High Energy Experimental Group, which played a leading role in the discovery of the Higgs particle,” Mitselmakher said. “I am happy to commend their vision in supporting the fundamental science at our university. For our group this day is a recognition for almost 20 years of hard work by many people. The Higgs particle discovery is a major milestone, one of the key discoveries in science, explaining how the world works. It will remain important as long as the science exists.”

UF Vice President for Research David Norton offered his congratulations to the team for its efforts.

“The University of Florida strives to be at the leading edge of knowledge discovery. The efforts of UF scientists in contributing to the amazing discovery epitomize that objective,” Norton said. “Understanding the fundamental nature of matter is a pursuit that captures the interest of all humankind. Knowing that UF physicists played a significant role in this discovery, recognized with the highest honor bestowed in science, is indeed a proud day for the University of Florida.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today awarded the Nobel Prize in physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field. The Higgs particle is responsible for the explanation of the masses of the fundamental particles from which the matter in the universe is built.

In the 1960s, Higgs and Englert, along with other theorists, including Robert Brout, Tom Kibble and Americans Carl Hagen and Gerald Guralnik, published papers introducing key concepts in the theory of the Higgs field. In 2012, scientists on the international ATLAS and CMS experiments, performed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN laboratory in Europe, confirmed this theory when they announced the discovery of the Higgs boson last year.

The UF team was part of the CMS experiment.

Since 1995, Mitselmakher and UF professors Andrey Korytov and Darin Acosta have led an international team that designed and built the muon detectors used by the CMS experiment for the Higgs discovery. A large number of these detectors were built in the UF department of physics and then transported to CERN for installation in the CMS experiment.

Korytov led the preparations for the CMS Higgs search, and with collaborators from the CMS experiment found the Higgs boson. The UF team led the analysis of the most sensitive signature of the Higgs particle: the decay of the Higgs boson into four muons. An alternative decay path into electrons and two gamma particles was also used to prove the Higgs’ existence.

In addition to Mitselmahker, Korytov and Acosta, UF faculty who have contributed to the Higgs discovery are Paul Avery, Richard Field, Ivan Furic, Jacobo Konigsberg, Konstantin
Matchev and John Yelton.

“We are extremely proud of the UF team’s efforts and its key role in the Higgs search,” said UF physics department chairman Kevin Ingersent. “This is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work for the UF team, and this recognition is well-earned.”

Nearly 2,000 physicists from U.S. institutions—including UF and 88 other U.S. universities and seven U.S. Department of Energy laboratories—participate in the ATLAS and CMS experiments, making up about 23 percent of the ATLAS collaboration and 33 percent of CMS at the time of the Higgs discovery. Brookhaven National Laboratory serves as the U.S. hub for the ATLAS experiment, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory serves as the U.S. hub for the CMS experiment.

U.S. scientists provided a significant portion of the intellectual leadership on Higgs analysis teams for both experiments. Support for the U.S. effort comes from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.