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Texas researcher says Higgs boson 'a wonderful confirmation of our current understanding of the universe'

For 17 years, UT Arlington physics researcher Kaushik De has envisioned the day when his work to prove the existence of the Higgs boson would pay off with a discovery.

Officially, De -- who arrived at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 to participate in research at the superconducting super collider in Waxahachie -- will have to wait at least a few more months for that announcement.

The team at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN held off calling the fruit that fell from a tree an apple, but De can see that it's red, round and has a worm in it.

"This is a wonderful confirmation of our current understanding of the universe," said De, who oversees the U.S. computing operations for ATLAS, one of the scientific teams at the collider near Geneva. "Brick by brick, we are figuring out the complex physical world that we live in. The path of science is not easy but always rewarding."

De, who is also director of UT Arlington's Center of Excellence for High Energy Physics, said he looks forward to further discoveries in the next 17 years. Of particular interest to him is the theory of supersymmetry, which holds that each particle could have an invisible double. That might account for the dark matter believed to compose 80 percent of the matter in the universe.

But "without the Higgs there would be no matter," he said. "No stars, no planets. Only light would exist, and maybe some other unknown massless objects. Everything would move fast -- at the speed of light. Nothing in the universe could move slower or faster. It would indeed be an unusual universe."

Seven times more powerful than the Tevatron accelerator at Fermilab, near Chicago, the Large Hadron Collider is the largest ever built. The Waxahachie super collider would have been about three times bigger than that, but Congress canceled it in 1993 amid soaring costs and questions about its scientific value.

ATLAS, a collaboration of 3,000 scientists from 200 universities and labs in 37 countries, began more than 15 years ago, and UTA has been involved since the start.

"By the end of 2012, we will have lots more data. Expect an update again in December," De said.