What is particle physics?

Particle physics, also called high-energy physics, is a field of research that examines the properties and behavior of matter at the smallest scales.

The goal is to build a model that explains every physical phenomena based on the properties and interactions of fundamental particles, forces and fields.

To do this, physicists scrutinize the properties of known particles and search for missing pieces.

Five mysteries the Standard Model cannot explain



The LHCb experiment searches for subtle differences between matter and its equal-and-opposite counterpart, antimatter. (Image: CERN)


A few basic questions...

Are there more particles and forces?


How does gravity fit into quantum mechanics?


What is the origin of mass and matter?


Is symmetry a coincidence or a condition of nature?

ATLAS researcher Monic Dunford describes the LHC in a movie clip from "Particle Fever," a documentary about the Higgs boson discovery.

Recent research highlights

Higgs announcement seminar on 4 July 2012
At CERN on 4 July, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations present evidence in the LHC data for a particle consistent with a Higgs boson, the particle linked to the mechanism proposed in the 1960s to give mass to the W, Z and other particles. (Image: CERN)

In 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery the Higgs boson, the last missing piece of their model.

The United States was a key player in this discovery. Today, US scientists are using the Higgs as a tool to tackle big outstanding questions.

Why particle physics research?

Many of today’s essential tools—including electricity, radio waves, radioactivity, X-rays, quantum mechanics, special relativity, and nuclear fission and fusion—were discovered through fundamental physics research.

Today's particle physics research builds on these discoveries to delve even more deeply into the properties of space and matter at a fundamental level.

Experiments and Collaborations,ALICE,LS2,skeleton,empty,structure,inside
The ALICE Experiment studies a hot and dense form of matter called quark gluon plasma, which filled the universe immediately after the Big Bang. (Image: CERN)


WIT Women in Technology
Cristina Bahamonde - Nuclear and Chemical engineer working in the LHC collimation system. Collimators protect the machine’s most sensitive components against beam losses during operation. The pictures were taken during a collimator installation and hardware check as a part of the HL-LHC upgrade (Image: CERN)

Particle physics drives national, regional, and local progress in science and industry and is the catalyst for many technologies in:

  • Computing
  • Medicine
  • Radiation sensing
  • Cryogenic cooling
  • Superconducting materials