Pupils from IKB Academy in Keynsham, near Bristol, have been inspired by a visit to CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.
During the February trip to Switzerland, the group discovered how CERN is helping to answer fundamental questions about the origins of the universe.
The 18 students, who are all preparing to sit A-levels in physics or engineering in the summer, heard about the scientific discoveries taking place at CERN – including the breakthrough confirmation of the Higgs boson particle in 2012 - and viewed the huge experimental machines where the work is carried out.
CERN, the world's leading particle physics laboratory, has about 100,000 visitors a year. The IKB group were among the small proportion of them given the chance to go 100 metres underground to see the CMS machine where the particles collide.
Debbie Gibbs, Principal of IKB Academy, which specialises in preparing students to work in science and engineering careers, said it had been a privilege to view the scale of the technical and engineering challenges at CERN.
“This was a unique experience for our young physicists and engineers to witness first hand the awe-inspiring culmination of years of scientific research coming together to unlock some of the secrets of the universe,” said Debbie.
Curtis Grainger, 17 and a pupil at IKB Academy, said the CERN scientists had been very knowledgeable – but it was the sheer size of the place that had the most impact.
“I didn't expect it to be that big - it was humungous. The whole thing was proper cool,” he said.
Imogen McDermott, 18 and who also attended the trip, added: “It was really interesting to see how what we are learning in school is applied in real life. Talking to the professors at CERN has really reignited my enthusiasm for physics.”
Many British scientists at all levels undertake research at CERN. The UK has been a member of the multinational organisation since it was founded in 1954.
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