Sac State physics student wins at CSU research competition

10 outstanding student researchers -- graduate and undergraduate -- represented Sac State.
Mon May 7, 2018

Sacramento State senior Mark Samuel Abbott bested 10 competitors to win the Undergraduate Physical and Mathematical Sciences Session – and $500 – at the 32nd annual California State University (CSU) Student Research Competition, held May 4-5 in the University Union.

His winning oral presentation was “Optimizing the HH->bbtautau Analysis to Measure the Strength of the Tri-linear Higgs Self-coupling.”

Abbott has participated in Sacramento State’s ATLAS Summer Research Experience, a program that sends undergraduates to the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to study alongside experts in high-energy particle physics.

“In the ATLAS Experiment, data from millions of proton-proton collisions are processed each second,” says Joshua Moss, Sac State professor of physics and Abbott’s advisor for the CSU Student Research Competition. “Mark Samuel's project used machine-learning techniques to help us select the interesting and rare events that produced Higgs Bosons, while rejecting those that do not.”

Having more data will lead to a better understanding of the Higgs Boson and possibly allow scientists to discover new physics outside of the current theory.

“Mark Samuel is an exceptional student and an asset to the ATLAS research group,” Moss says. “I have enjoyed working with him during the past year, and I am looking forward to following his promising career in physics.

While at Sac State, Abbott won several departmental awards, including the Senior Award for an outstanding graduating senior. He also was admitted to the national physics honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma. In addition, he served as a longtime student stockroom assistant and learning assistant.

“Mark Samuel has been an integral part of our department since he came to Sac State as a freshman,” says William DeGraffenreid, interim associate vice president for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development.

More than 200 outstanding graduate and undergraduate researchers, representing 22 of the 23 CSU campuses, competed in 21 sessions over the two days of the CSU Student Research Competition. The top finisher in each session was awarded $500; $250 went to each second-place finisher.

The 10 students who represented Sacramento State had the best oral presentations at the Student Research Spring Symposium, held on campus in March. – Dixie Reid