New Higgs Prize to inspire future physicists

Bright young Scottish scientists now have the chance to visit CERN, the home of pioneering particle research

Young Scottish students who excel in physics could win an inspiring trip to the nuclear research facility in Cern, Geneva, where groundbreaking work to investigate the ‘God particle’ continues.

The new annual Higgs Prize, named after scientist Professor Peter Higgs, was recently announced by the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, at a week-long event to showcase Scotland’s scientific expertise. It came just days before the minister inspected Scotland’s landmark first space satellite, the UKube-1, at Glasgow’s Clyde Space facility.

The now-retired Professor Higgs, who hypothesised the existence of the ‘God particle’, welcomed the news: “I am pleased to have my name associated with this prize and hope that this will inspire young students of today, just as I was myself in the past.

“I know very well how exciting and amazing visits to Cern can be. Rewarding those who have excelled in physics in this way and supporting the next generation of scientists is to be warmly welcomed.”

Professor Higgs came upon his particle theory during a walk in the Cairngorms in 1964, when he started to consider the existence of a particle that gives matter its mass, holding the physical fabric of the universe together.

He wrote two scientific papers on his theory and was eventually published in the Physical Review Letters journal, sparking a 40-year hunt for the Higgs boson particle.

In July 2012, a team at the research facility in Cern announced the detection of a particle that fitted the description of the elusive Higgs.

Mr Salmond described Professor Higgs as: “A household name who is known the world over. His work is celebrated internationally and Scotland is very proud of him.

“The Higgs Prize will be an opportunity for some of Scotland’s brightest young school physicists to see for themselves the cutting-edge of international physics at Cern. I’m delighted that Professor Higgs’ achievements will inspire future generations of Scots.”

The prize was formally launched by Mr Salmond and Professor Higgs on 12 February 2013.