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Professor's Work Continues Connecting Bethel to Global Research – Bethel University News

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist
July 13, 2022 | 12:15 p.m.
For a recent science summer pizza lunch on campus, Associate Professor of Physics Julie Hogan, Bethel’s summer research students, and other faculty, participated in the 10th anniversary of the Higgs discovery over Zoom.
Years ago, Julie Hogan was having lunch with a friend at the European Council for Nuclear Research—better known as CERN—cafeteria in Geneva, Switzerland, while working as a doctoral researcher. The conversation took a turn that would send her career in a new direction. “He asked, ‘Do you ever want to pack this in and go teach physics to a bunch of Christian college students?’” Hogan recalls. “I thought he might be joking, but he wasn’t! He was a Bethel alum and had heard about a faculty position available.”
Now an associate professor in Bethel’s Department of Physics and Engineering, Hogan is still able to blend her passion for teaching students with her research and connections to renowned research facilities like the CERN Large Hadron Collider. On June 30, Hogan led a group of Bethel students, alumni, and faculty who joined scientists from around the world by participating virtually in the 10th anniversary of the Higgs discovery—a major capstone in particle physics.
For Hogan, it’s important to have Bethel—and Christian scientists—at the table during such monumental events. “Through high energy physics research, we have the chance to make our programs known to physicists across the U.S. and even internationally,” Hogan says. “This is one avenue where we can show that Christians have a voice in ‘real’ science and can impact the scientific community.”
Bethel’s participation also comes after the university has made significant investments in its science programs in recent years. Along with building new labs for physics and engineering, Bethel also added the Nelson-Larson Science Center. Besides providing state-of-the-art classrooms, the spaces boost Bethel’s longstanding tradition of student-faculty research. And Hogan frequently works with students on research projects.
“Through high energy physics research, we have the chance to make our programs known to physicists across the U.S. and even internationally. This is one avenue where we can show that Christians have a voice in ‘real’ science and can impact the scientific community.”
Cody Holz ’21 (left) and Evan Scharnick ’21 pose in front of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a general-purpose detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Council for Nuclear Research—better known as CERN—in Geneva, Switzerland.
Holz has been working as a tool designer for Kut-Rite Tool in Streamwood, Illinois, since earning a B.S. in Physics with a mathematics minor. Though he was only briefly able to attend the Higgs celebration over his lunch break, he says it was refreshing to hear how impactful the Higgs discovery was to the scientific community. “I wasn’t involved with high energy physics research until a few years after the discovery so it was easy to take the idea that we know the Higgs exists for granted,” he says. “The event was helpful in reflecting upon all the work and effort that needed to go into discovering a particle such as this.”

Holz was pleased to see Bethel represented at the event. “I am proud of Bethel along with the physics and engineering department for being involved with the research in this field,” he says. “To me, it shows commitment to wanting to learn and understand more about the incredibly fundamental aspects about our universe.”

Hogan continues connecting Bethel students with the global science community. Last year, she received a new National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to continue her project, “Digging Deep for New Physics with the CMS Experiment,” with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration. The endeavor connects 5,000 scientists conducting research using the CMS, a general-purpose detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. Her prior NSF grant focused on integrating deep machine learning techniques into their main search for new physics particles. With this continuation grant, which runs through July 2024, she will focus on digging deep into large amounts of “noise” for new physics signals that are very rare. “We’ve got new signal models on the table, and new algorithms to hopefully get better handles on separating those rare signals from the noise,” she says.

Another part of the grant is focused on developing hardware to upgrade the group’s the CMS detector. This summer, two Bethel students—including a Physics and Engineering Scholarship recipient—are working on-campus at the University of Minnesota with Hogan’s CMS collaborators on electronics upgrades. CMS is also taking data for CERN’s “Run 3,” which started July 5 and will last the next few years.

Along with her research, Holz says Hogan encapsulates what many Bethel professors strive to be—always willing to help a student with their academic work as well as being a mentor and equipping their students with the right tools they need to be successful in life. “She showed this all the time by constantly working closely with us and providing opportunities to always learn more and apply our skills,” he says.
There has never been a better time to begin studying physics or engineering at Bethel. The department—which ranks in the top 15 of undergraduate departments by size nationally—doubled the square footage of its labs and research spaces in recent years. Majors include computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and software engineering; and significant funding from the National Science Foundation supports student-faculty research and international partnerships.
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