Christopher Lester

Probing the Fundamental Forces of Nature

By Stacy Kish on August 4, 2010

Fellow: Christopher Lester
Hometown: Marietta GA
Undergrad: Duke University
Graduate school: University of Pennsylvania
Keywords: Department of Energy, Office of Science, Graduate Fellow program, Duke University, Large Hadron Collider, Tevatron

Imagine being able to recreate the universe in your laboratory. This is the kind of work that inspires Christopher Lester, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and a DOE Office of Science graduate fellow. “I was always interested in physics,” begins Lester. “Physics inspired me because it is so creative and imaginative.”

Growing up in Marietta, Ga., Lester often lost himself in science fiction books centered around complex physics themes, like string theory.“When I got into college and I started taking physics classes, I never looked back,” said Lester. He credits his success to his first physics teacher, Al Goshaw at Duke University, who mentored  him during his early studies.

Lester’s research is focused on creating high energy densities, where particles are able to collide. “We are looking for the fundamental forces of the universe and how they behave,” he explains. “If we find particles or do not find particles, we may be able to find the origin of mass.” Lester is probing the fundamental forces of nature using the Tevatron at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

Lester continues, “In some high energy regimes, the standard model must break down.” Scientists are developing models that connect physics across a continuum from extreme high energy represented by black holes to energy that we can probe. “No one knows what the new physics will be so we are probing around in the dark trying to find something,” explains Lester.

The graduate fellowship will allow Lester to balance his work at Fermi National laboratory and CERN. “The fellowship will broaden my opportunities by allowing me to be at the place where the experiment is being conducted and it will allow me to meet other interested and motivated people.”

Stacy Kish is a Science Writer with the Office of Science