First Determination of the Electric Charge of the Top Quark and Studies of the Top Quark Pair Background to New Physics
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with experimental investigations of properties of the top quark and processes involving this particle. In the first part of the thesis, the first determination of the electric charge of the top quark is presented. The measurement was made using top quark pair events produced in proton-antiproton collisions recorded by the D0 detector at the Fermilab Tevatron. It is based on the reconstruction of the charge of the top quarks decay products from the dominant decay to a W boson and a b-quark. The method uses a jet charge algorithm, calibrated with data, to discriminate between b- and antib-quark jets. A constrained kinematic fit is also performed to resolve the ambiguities of the pairing of the top quark decay products and to extract the top quark electric charge. The result is in good agreement with the Standard Model top quark electric charge of 2e/3 and an upper limit of 0.8 at 90\% confidence level on the fraction of exotic quarks with charge 4e/3 in the data sample is obtained.The second part of the thesis concerns the estimation of the top quark pair background to searches for new physics, such as supersymmetry, with the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. These searches will require a robust estimation of standard model backgrounds in order to make any claims of discovery or to exclude models of new physics. For searches with a final state signature characterized by two isolated charged leptons, multiple jets and large missing transverse energy the largest source of background is expected to be top quark pairs with leptonic decay of the two W bosons from the top quarks in the event. A data-driven method to estimate this contribution based on full kinematic reconstruction of the top quark pair events is studied using simulated proton-proton collisions. It is shown that the method is capable of estimating the top quark pair background to within 12% using data corresponding to approximately 1fb-1. The systematic uncertainty is of the order of 20% and, depending on the model, the contamination of signal events can potentially be large.
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