Journey to Fermilab Reveals the Inspiring World of Particle Physics

Share This:



SPS Chapters on Professional Development

Journey to Fermilab Reveals the Inspiring World of Particle Physics


Thayne Dean, SPS Chapter President, Southern Illinois University Carbondale


The group gathers for a tour of Fermilab. Photo courtesy of the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale SPS chapter.

In October 2022, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale SPS chapter embarked on an exhilarating journey to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), one of the world's leading centers for particle physics research. This unforgettable experience reinforced the lab's significance and greatly impacted our passion for physics. 

Nestled in Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, Fermilab is about six hours from Carbondale. That meant we’d need to stay overnight. This was the first trip our SPS board had planned, and it was a great success! After preparing a detailed budget and itinerary, we secured funding from our Undergraduate Student Government as well as the Graduate Professional Student Council. Despite the cold weather, we camped to reduce costs, which ended up being tons of fun. Eight members attended—an impressive turnout for our small chapter.


The Muon g-2 (pronounced “gee minus two”) storage ring at Fermilab. Scientists working on the Muon g-2 experiment use accelerators to explore how muons interact with a strong magnetic field in “empty” space. Photo by Ryan Postel, Fermilab.

During our tour of Fermilab, we visited research facilities that left us awestruck. One of the highlights was exploring the main control room, where scientists monitor and control the intricate operations of particle accelerators. The high-tech infrastructure and intricate web of detectors we viewed underscored the meticulous precision required for such experiments. 

We were also fortunate to engage with some of the brightest minds in particle physics as Fermilab scientists and researchers generously shared their knowledge, passion, and experiences with us. They introduced us to cutting-edge experiments involving the properties of neutrinos and the search for new particles beyond the standard model. We learned about the significance of the Higgs boson—which earned François Englert and Peter Higgs the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics—and marveled at ongoing efforts to uncover the nature of dark matter and the existence of additional dimensions. 


Bison play on the grounds of Fermilab. A herd of bison has been a fixture there since 1969. Photo courtesy of the SIU Carbondale SPS chapter.

Fermilab’s mission to unravel the mysteries of the universe through particle physics research opened our eyes to the immense possibilities that exist in this field of study. Our visit was both an opportunity to witness groundbreaking science and a catalyst for our personal growth. Interacting with scientists who demonstrated a collaborative spirit and passion for their work ignited our curiosity, instilled a sense of purpose, and solidified our commitment to the pursuit of scientific knowledge. We left inspired, ready to continue our exploration of the frontiers of science and contribute to the remarkable legacy of scientific discovery at Fermilab.

The SPS Observer Wants to Showcase Your Chapter

Invest in the future of your chapter and let SPS know what you’ve been up to by submitting your SPS chapter report this spring, using the latest template. Select chapters will be invited to share their activities with SPS broadly. For details visit


More from this department

SPS Chapters on Professional Development