image Follow Us:

Sept 2013 - Protons, Proteins and Particle accelerators


What are the tiniest bits of matter made up of? How do proteins work together and keep us alive? Particle accelerators are state-of-the art machines that allow scientists to answer these questions.

CERN computer scientist Gianluca Valentino, currently a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of ICT, University of Malta, and Rosalin Bonetta, a Ph.D. student in physiology and biochemistry at the University of Malta, will take the audience through a fascinating tour of cutting edge engineering, physics and biochemistry on Friday 27th September as part of Science in the City.

The public will get a first-hand account of their experiences working on two of the most advanced machines in the world — the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the Diamond synchrotron light source near Oxford.

Famous for the discovery of a Higgs-like boson in 2012, the LHC accelerates protons in a ring until they almost reach the speed of light, before colliding them. The stored beam energy is equivalent to 80 kg of TNT explosive. The collimation system protects the machine from the potentially destructive beams. Gianluca has developed algorithms that quickly and automatically determine the required position of the collimators with respect to the beams. The algorithms resulted in operational savings of hundreds of hours, helping the LHC to produce more particle collisions in the 2011-2013 period.

The Diamond Light Source instead accelerates electrons. It generates synchrotron bright light which is ideal for revealing the atomic and molecular details of tiny nano- or micrometre samples of matter. It is the first and only place in Europe where serious viruses such as those responsible for AIDS, Hepatitis and some types of flu can be pictured at atomic level. Studying disease in this way opens up new pathways for the development of therapeutic treatments and vaccines. Rosalin is carrying out studies at the Diamond Light Source to find the structure of mutant enzymes.

The talk is coordinated by Malta Café Scientifique and Malta Chamber of Scientists. It starts at 7.30pm at La Vallette Band Club (1st floor), Valletta. Admission is free of charge and goody bags with a scientific twist will be distributed to participants.

“Protons, Proteins and Particle accelerators” is one of the interesting activities happening during Science in the City as part of EU-wide event Researchers’ Night aiming to enhance public recognition of researchers and their work. The events offer a variety of fun-learning activities through interactive science shows, talks, science-inspired art and installations for all the family.

The programme can be downloaded from or festival updates followed on Facebook at:

The “Researchers’ Night - Science in the City” festival is organised by a consortium of national organisations that is led by the University of Malta Research Trust, and the Malta Chamber of Scientists. The partners are MCST, Where’s Everybody Ltd, Valletta Local Council, MEUSAC, the Public Broadcasting Services Ltd, MCAST, iCreatemotion, the European Commission Representation in Malta, the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, Notte Bianca, Valletta 2018 Foundation, Malta Chamber of Pharmacists, King's Own Philharmonic Society and St James Cavalier. The project is supported by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sports, Vodafone and Microsoft Innovation Centre.

The festival is co-funded by a competitive award from the EU’s FP7 Programme and the Malta Arts Fund.