Sunanda Banerjee, who was given ABP Ananda’s Sherar Shera (Bangali) award on August 8, had worked on detector physics in the US Fermilab (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory) before deciding to come back to India to lead the team at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) engaged in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN. Banerjee spoke to Metro about the team’s contribution to the search for Higgs-Boson, its current engagement in looking for the God particle in other channels and upgrading the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, as well as his weakness for north Calcutta sweets.
Q: How did it feel being conferred the Sherar Shera award by ABP Ananda?
A: I was contacted by (ABP Ananda’s) Suman De by email. At that time I had no idea what it was. I thought it was similar to something like what had happened last year after the announcement of Higgs-Boson. People tried to cover that in various news channels. So I thought maybe it would be something similar to that. And then I mentioned it to one of my colleagues. He then told me ‘you know what it it is, right?” I was overwhelmed by what happened. But the worst thing was that I did not realise I was getting the Sherar Shera award till I was given the prize!
Q: What was the exact role of SINP in the discovery of the Higgs-Boson?
A: The team headed by me along with Manoj Sharan, Subir Sarkar, Suchandra Datta and Satyaki Bhattacharya, and the students were largely involved in offline software activities of coordinating the simulation and data quality monitoring team of CMS and offline data quality monitoring of the tracking detector. Having successfully contributed to the CERN experiment thus through our knowledge of detector physics and monitoring the data, the team also participated in the search of the Higgs-Boson at higher masses and they also looked for the Higgs associated with another vector boson. Now they propose to CERN to study Higgs boson properties in a number of channels.
Q:What is the team working on right now?
A: My own strength is the design of the detector. The detector has to be changed. It is changing now. It is again going to change after five years and then after 10 years. Right now the accelerator is not taking data, it is shut down. We are changing part of the detector right now — the Forward Hadron Calorimeter. Part of this work is being done by SINP. In the next phase, in five years’ time, we need to find out what will be the ideal configuration for the Hadron Calorimeter. This is a work which is done with simulated data. This is one of my primary tasks.
Then comes the next phase. The current strength of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has to increase, the event rate will go up by a factor of 10. They are trying to focus the beam even further and trying to increase the event rate. When that happens the current detectors will become useless. So we are trying to have newer detectors with different designs to cope with the new event rates. All this involves intense studies and we are working on three or four different aspects of that. But at the moment it is purely simulation. We are slowly moving into detector testing and building. But that will only be done after four or five years.
Q: What about the search for Higgs-Boson in higher masses?
A: There are two teams working on the Higgs search. In 2012, we observed Higgs boson decaying mainly through the Bosonic state. Now we have found out Higgs also decays to Fermions. This is important. In Standard Model, it has to have some coupling with Fermions. There are other groups who are trying to combine all this and get an overall impression of the properties of the Higgs-Boson.
Q: Are you happy with the way things are going?
A: I think it is going very well. We are working on one of the most important channels. In 2015, we are gearing to looking at Higgs decaying to two Photons. Now we are forming subgroups to do that.
Q: How did you happen to join SINP?
A: The SINP team came into being when director Milan Sanyal approached me in 2010 to join the institute. I was then working at Fermilab in the US on a CMS project.
I had already spent 10 years in CERN prior to that as part of the Higgs-Boson experiment. I agreed to come back to the country and the city lured with the challenge of forming a new team to work on the CERN project.
Q: How do you find working here?
A: At SINP, we have an excellent group which was formed by recruiting the best manpower available.... We share an intimate relationship with each other. Subir Sarkar and Suchandra Datta joined from Italy while Satyaki Bhattacharya was in the US for five years. Manoj Sharan was already there in SINP.
Subir and Suchandra had interests in offline software. Suchandra had worked directly on the tracking detector while in Italy and Subir was well-known within CMS for grid computing. Satyaki had also worked as part of CMS at the University of California, San Diego, under James Branson, who has done very good work on analysing the Higgs-Boson.
While all four of us had worked on CMS before joining SINP, Sharan, working previously on a different LHC experiment, had to be inducted as a CMS member for the first time.
As for support from SINP for the ongoing project, the director has been very cooperative. Funds have been made available to us whenever we needed to buy machines. Besides, we have travelled frequently for work. There is a good communication link with CERN, both digital link and telecommunication link.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Today, with added responsibilities and increasing workload, I am looking to expand my team and create one that will survive in the long run. We will recruit only those with cutting-edge knowledge and experience. I hope to create a team that will survive in the long run and not wither away when I am gone.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I used to enjoy reading history books in general. And any storybook. But that thing rarely happens these days. I love to be in touch with my research work. Given the responsibility at SINP, I have a lot at hand. I try to reach early, so that I get a couple of hours before the institute opens. But now all my students know my hours! There is hardly any time for myself. I try to catch up during the weekends.
Q:The last book you read?
A: When I travel I read books and watch films. The last book was given by a student, the Shiva trilogy (by Amish). I finished the first one and am on the second one. It was a mixture of history and mythology. If it was a little more believable I would have liked it more.
Q: The last films you watched?
A: I watched Kahaani, Barfi!, I also liked Shunyo Awnko. I watched Kahaani and Barfi! on flight, Shunyo Awnko I watched in a theatre. It was after two years that I went to a theatre. I also watched the new Meghe Dhaka Tara. I liked Saswata Chatterjee’s acting.