Lab Rat of the Week: Tomo Lazovich ’11

Jessica C. Salley

Tomo Lazovich '11 works to identify and filter atmospheric particles known as muons. Lazovich is part of a Harvard particle physics group involved with the ATLAS experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research's Large Hadron Collider.

When Tomo Lazovich ’11 first heard that the Fibonacci Sequence in mathematics was related to the Golden Ratio, his instinct was to go home and test the theory. After jotting down a few Fibonacci numbers, Lazovich discovered that the ratio of numbers as the series progressed really did become closer to the Golden Ratio.

“[It’s] not so exciting now,” he says. But it was at the time. He was 11 years old.

Lazovich’s early interest in mathematics paved the way for his Harvard career. A Physics concentrator with a secondary in Computer Science, he will turn in his senior thesis next week. His thesis focuses on how to identify and filter the muons, negatively charged particles that are heavier than electrons, created from proton collisions.

Lazovich has conducted research with Harvard’s Department of Physics since the summer after his freshman year, when he met Professor Melissa Franklin, who chairs the physics department. Alongside Franklin, he has been researching data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a new particle collider in Europe that can handle what Lazovich describes is a “massive increase” in energy.

“[With the LHC], we can actually search for … a new regime of physics that we’ve never been able to test before,” he explained.

His role in the project is to develop a software that can filter the muons created from the collision in the LHC from the “background muons,” which are a result of cosmic rays from the sun that would contaminate date.

The research seeks to test the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics, which is widely accepted today. “This contributes to analyses that are trying to get at the crux of what is going on at the fundamental scale of nature,” Lazovich said.

Though he is engaged in serious research, Lazovich lets his sense of humor show, according to his friends.

“He’s crazy smart [and] crazy funny … He has this weird ability to make everyone in the room feel comfortable and everybody in said room start laughing,” Kelly P. Brock ’11, his girlfriend of around two years, said. “He’s very, very persistent in [trying until] he gets what he wants … which is why he’s such a good physicist.”

While he is very dedicated to his own research, Lazovich has found time to be a leader in the undergraduate science community.

He was co-president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and a TF for CS50. Lazovich plans to go on to graduate school next year, where he will work toward a Ph.D. in physics.

“I’d like to be in a position where I can do good research and help others learn about physics,” he said.

Being a university professor is not a goal that others don’t believe Lazovich can attain.

“He’s probably going to be one of those great professors [whose] class everyone wants to take,” Brock said.