New york  - In 2012, the science world broke into celebration with the announcement that the Higgs boson - sometimes controversially referred to as the ‘God particle’ - had been found.

The discovery of the particle, which is believed to give mass to matter, was a crowning achievement and justification for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern. But one scientist has told MailOnline we can expect even greater discoveries from the collider in the coming years - and one in particular could be the most important in history. Dr Monica Dunford, originally from California and now a researcher at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, worked at Cern in Switzerland until 2013.She is one of six scientists who feature in the widely acclaimed documentary Particle Fever, which chronicles the first round of experiments at the LHC at Cern in 2008, leading up to the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.

Finding the Higgs boson was one of the primary goals of the LHC - but perhaps the LHC’s most important moment is yet to come. ‘One of the things I’m most interested in is creating and discovering dark matter,’ Dr Dunford said. ‘We know from measurements of cosmology that 25 per cent of the universe is dark matter and we have absolutely no idea what that is.

‘For comparison, what we do know, electrons and protons, only count for four per cent. ‘You have this huge chunk of a pie and no idea what it consists of. ‘One thing we could possibly produce would be a dark matter candidate via its decay products. ‘Being able to produce it at the LHC would be a huge connection between our astronomical measurements and what we can produce in the laboratory.’

On whether it would be the LHC’s most important discovery to date, she said: ‘Personally yes. It would be a bigger discovery than the Higgs boson. ‘For the Higgs we had a very good concrete theoretical prediction; for dark matter we really have no idea what it would be.’ She added: ‘There is no particle that we know of today that can explain dark matter, let alone what dark energy might be.

‘So if we could directly produce dark matter particles at the LHC this would be a huge step forward in our understanding of the composition of the universe!’

If the LHC does one day find dark matter, it will be interesting to see if the moments leading up to it are as tense as those before the Higgs boson was found. Dr Dunford first came to Cern in 2006, when she was involved in the initial construction and development of the world’s largest particle accelerator. ‘In the beginning we were building the detector,’ she said.

‘It was awesome, total stress, but it was great. We were probably a core team of several hundred in the day and night.’ After that initial period, the teams moved onto the ‘much less sexy’ tasks of data analysis from the detector. ‘In the beginning, before the Higgs boson was discovered, there was a lot of tension,’ Dr Dunford continues. ‘We would have these blocks of data and people would be like ‘is it there? Can we see it?’

‘At the time the announcement was made in 2012, it had risen to a fever pitch. ‘I don’t think there will be another time like that in my career for sure.’ That discovery was not only a groundbreaking moment for physics, but also justified the huge cost £5.9 billion ($9.1 billion) of building and operating the LHC.