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Single top quark physics at the ATLAS experiment

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a powerful particle accelerator being built close to Geneva and is due to start operating in 2008.  Two beams of protons will travel around a 27km ring, close to the speed of light, before colliding with one another at four locations.  The energy is similar to that found in the early universe, less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.  

The ATLAS experiment is one of four particle detectors which will make measurements at the LHC.  It is a general-purpose detector designed to analyse all types of particles produced by collisions in the accelerator and to investigate a wide range of physics processes.  

One of the main goals of the experiment is to discover and study the Higgs particle, which will explain the origin of mass, and to search for other new particles.  In order to carry out these studies, it is vital to investigate the properties of the heaviest fundamental particle discovered so far, known as the “top quark”.  Top quarks were observed for the first time in 1995 and their characteristics have yet to be measured in detail.  The Fellowship project will probe the properties of top quarks recorded in the ATLAS detector, particularly the production rate of single top quarks and a measurement of the quark mass.