XXII edition of the EPIPHANY Conference

More than 100 particle physicists gathered on 7–9 January for the XXII Cracow EPIPHANY Conference on the Physics in LHC Run 2. The international conference, traditionally scheduled early in the particle-physics conference calendar, was held for the first time at the Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN). The organising committee was chaired by the director-general of IFJ PAN, Marek Jeżabek.

The three days of discussions were stimulated by 27 world-class talks on both experimental and theoretical aspects of LHC physics. The four LHC experiments provided a broad spectrum of reports, ranging from impressive accounts of the detector upgrades carried out during the first long shutdown (LS1) and on performance status, through latest physics results, to prospects for Run 2. Energy-frontier physics as well as heavy-ion and heavy-flavour LHC physics were also amply covered. These were complemented by illuminating theory talks, which summarised the current experimental status and outlined possible future scenarios.

It is a long tradition of the EPIPHANY conferences that graduate students and young postdocs are invited to give short talks on their research. This year’s edition of the conference featured 25 such presentations by young researchers – a record number. The talks give a unique platform for close interaction between young physicists on the verge of their scientific careers and luminaries in the field – the young researchers not only listen to the enlightening talks of their experienced colleagues and engage in direct discussions, but also have the opportunity to present and promote themselves in front of renowned experts from around the word.

Given its proximity to the new conference venue, attendees were invited on a guided tour of the Cyclotron Centre Bronowice (CCB), an all-new proton-therapy centre recently opened on the IFJ PAN campus.

For the 22nd time, the Cracow EPIPHANY Conference provided an inspiring and friendly environment for discussions within its unique formula, offering lunches and conference dinner to all participants while waiving any conference-fee charges.

• For more information, see epiphany.ifj.edu.pl/current/index.php/page/index.

Rencontres de Moriond 2016: patience and more data needed

The Rencontres de Moriond in La Thuile, Italy, is traditionally the most important meeting place for particle physicists during the winter. After last year’s restart of the LHC at unprecedented energy, and as Rencontres de Moriond celebrates its 50th anniversary, physicists gathered at La Thuile with great interest for the electroweak session (from 12 to 19 March), to look at the latest results from the LHC experiments. Analyses presented during the week included measurements of the Higgs boson using last year’s LHC 13 TeV data, an eagerly anticipated update on the search for diphoton resonances, precision measurements of Standard Model processes, and new searches for supersymmetric particles and dark matter.

The week started with many results in the area of heavy flavours, where one of the main highlights came from the LHCb experiment. Looking at their data, LHCb collaboration physicists could not spot any evidence for the existence of X(5568) – a tetraquark particle candidate recently reported by Fermilab’s DZero collaboration. The LHCb and DZero collaborations will work together to investigate further, following this interesting outcome.

ATLAS also presented their full Run 1 result of the search for the extremely rare decay of a Bs meson to a muon pair. The decay was observed by CMS and LHCb in 2014, from a combination of their data sets. The ATLAS analysis resulted in a signal that is smaller than expected, but still compatible with the Standard Model.

After a great deal of hard work to calibrate and characterise the data collected, both ATLAS (CERN Courier January/February 2016 p8) and CMS (CERN Courier January/February 2016 p9) provided an update on an intriguing result that was first presented last December: a small excess above background in the diphoton channel near a mass of 750 GeV, which could mean the existence of a new unexpected particle, if confirmed. With refined analysis, the "bump" in the data is still there, but the statistical significance of the result still remains too low to be conclusive. Physicists must wait for the imminent restart of data collection before they can investigate further, because the LHC has been paused for the winter during recent weeks.

Physicists will have to wait for summer conferences, such as ICHEP 2016 in Chicago, to possibly get excited again.

• See the News section in this issue for more information.

Brainstorming on the needs of the medical field

The second brainstorming meeting on CERN medical applications took place in Divonne, France, from 19 to 21 February. The goal of this series of meetings is to give input to CERN’s management on what the medical community would need in terms of imaging for diagnostics, accelerator-based facilities and big data.

Four expert groups on particle therapy, imaging, radioisotopes and nuclear medicine, and medical data, were asked to outline the top priorities, challenges and needs from physics, radiobiology and information sciences in the coming years.

Particle therapy

CERN has the unique capacity to produce a large range of ions from protons to higher z values, at clinically relevant energies, with a control megavoltage photon beam and with long durations of beam-time access.

The clinical priority was stated as studies on relative biological effectiveness (RBE), which would ultimately influence the precise ranges of dose compensation used in clinics when energy-transfer conditions change.

The Bio-LEIR/OpenMed project (https://cds.cern.ch/journal/CERNBulletin/2012/30/News%20Articles/1462262) was also discussed. The members of the expert group see it as an ideal facility to generate new data on RBE on a wide range of cells with different radiosensitivities. Bio-LEIR would also be a test bed for the R&D of compact and sophisticated dosimeters, linear-energy-transfer (LET) detectors, and the remote detection of positron emissions, prompt gamma emissions, and neutrons.

Besides Bio-LEIR, the experts emphasised the strong need for the community to have a common place for sharing experience, ideas, and results. CERN, with its great experience in knowledge exchange and international collaboration, could be the host place for a network, and would be part of a collaboration as member.


Medical imaging is a fast-developing field, and predicting the needs for the coming years is an almost impossible task. One of the main points discussed by the experts in Divonne was the new EXPLORER project and the perspectives that it opens. The EXPLORER project, funded by the US, seeks to reduce scanning times, improve sensitivity and spatial resolution, and enable the whole body to be imaged simultaneously with high temporal resolution, by constructing a whole-body PET scanner. It is anticipated that the next generation of EXPLORER will incorporate more advanced detector technology such as that being developed at CERN.

Indeed, electronics and detectors with ~10 ps resolution are under development in various collaborations around the world, including the Crystal Clear collaboration.

Another CERN collaboration, Medipix3, contributed to the development of the "Spectral CT", which offers the possibility of imaging several contrast agents simultaneously. In future, if combined with biomarkers using metal nanoparticles, this technique may even introduce functional imaging to CT.

Accurate dose-range determination during hadron therapy continues to be a key concern. Work continues on various techniques and, in particular, on Compton cameras. Developments in 3-gamma detection may help to improve the efficiency of Compton cameras, leading to improvements in range detection for hadron therapy. A promising approach is the tracking and tagging of charged fragments leaving the patient during ion therapy. Feasibility studies have been carried out at HIT, Germany, using Timepix as the tracking and particle identification detector.

Radioisotopes and nuclear medicine

CERN is constructing MEDICIS (CERN Courier November 2013 p37), a dedicated facility for the production of innovative isotopes, which are of potentially high relevance to the medical field. The members of the expert group identified the construction of MEDICIS as a high-priority project that would significantly boost the research on new isotopes. Thanks to MEDICIS, it would be possible to increase the supply of R&D isotopes such as 152Tb and 155Tb. This α emitter is often referred to as the Swiss army knife of nuclear medicine, allowing at the same time imaging by PET and SPECT and treatment of the cancerous cells.

The experts stressed the fact that the best results in this promising field would be achieved through effective collaborations with the European Spallation Source (ESS) currently under construction in Sweden, as well as with the Belgian ISOL@Myrrha. These should also be pursued in view of seeking EU funding from existing schemes.

Medical data

This new topic was introduced this year and immediately became a main focus, first of the ICTR-PHE conference (CERN Courier April 2016 p29) and then of the Divonne brainstorming meeting.

Modern medicine increasingly relies for research, diagnoses and treatment on the use of large multifactorial preclinical and clinical data sets of heterogeneous data such as, but not limited to, images, patient history, genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, simulations, standard lab tests, and microbiome and environmental data.

The use and combination of such data sets is an active area of research, which is anticipated to enable breakthroughs in various medical disciplines and open up entirely new interdisciplinary research fields such as personalised medicine – a medical model that stratifies patients based on all available personal data to inform patient-tailored medical decisions. Indeed, looking at a patient on an individual basis allows for a more accurate diagnostic and specific treatment plan.

CERN’s contribution to these efforts could be threefold. First, it can provide the necessary computing infrastructure. Second, it can help in the development and tailoring of data-analytics software tools for the management and analysis of large preclinical and clinical data sets, for biophysical simulations and for the development of decision-support systems. And third, the open culture at CERN can be harnessed to accelerate the development of new tools for data analysis, and to promote the development of new research angles and questions.

In addition, CERN attracts numerous talented students and personnel who constitute an invaluable reservoir of skills and interest that could be harnessed for medical-data projects directly, or via hackathons or competitions of the type organised in the machine-learning community.

The two days of the meeting saw focussed and fruitful discussions. The four reports will be compiled into a single document that will be submitted to CERN’s management for discussion and evaluation in the coming months.

Events calendar
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Events calendar