From high school student to particle physicist in one day
Prof. Dr. Michael Kobel, Technical University of Dresden,
+49 – 351 - 4633 9880,
6000 students are participating in this year’s research days
This spring, the fourth international Hands-on Particle Physics Masterclasses give more than 6000 high school students from around the world the opportunity to work with a particle physicist to unravel the hidden secrets of high energy physics. Scientists at more than 70 universities and laboratories in 21 countries are hosting these student research days at their home institutions until March 15, 2008.
For a day, high school students visit a research institute near their schools and work with data gathered by two large particle collider experiments at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research. They examine the collisions of electrons and positrons traveling at close to the speed of light, racing through a 27-kilometer-circumference accelerator. The students use computer programs to analyze data recorded by the Delphi and Opal experiments. Via videoconference, they compare and discuss their results with participants in other countries – just like actual particle physicists do in international collaborations.
Participant questionnaires conducted in 2007 showed that students were enthusiastic about experiencing state-of-the-art research in an authentic environment. They valued gaining insight into the international organization of modern research while learning about the world of subatomic particles through easy-to-understand presentations by physicists involved in particle physics research.
“I had the feeling of doing something that experimental physicists do every day,” wrote a seventeen-year-old student in her questionnaire. Seventy-five percent of all students stated that modern physics should play a bigger role in their school classes.
Seeded by a program in the United Kingdom, the first international student research days took place in 2005, when it was expanded to 18 European countries. It includes an international video conference moderated by scientists at CERN. The 2008 program highlights the global aspect of particle physics research with the addition of programs in the United States and the first-time participation of Brazilian institutes. A list of all participating countries and institutions is available online at http://www.physicsmasterclasses.org/institutes/institutes.htm
This year, selected groups of high school teachers also have the chance to be particle physicists for one day. Scientists are offering teacher research days. The teachers work on real particle physics data, compare their results with colleagues from other countries and discuss with each other how to incorporate particle physics more thoroughly into their classes.
The Hands-on Particle Physics student research days take place under the central coordination of Physics Professor Michael Kobel, University of Dresden, in close cooperation with the European Particle Physics Outreach Group (EPPOG) and with the support of the European Physical Society (EPS). As part of the program, students receive a CD-ROM with material related to particle physics, translated into 16 languages with the help of the EPPOG. The CD offers interactive learn-and-work material about the fundamental building blocks of nature and the instruments used to study them.
The EPPOG is an independent committee of representatives of CERN member states and the research laboratories CERN and DESY. The committee’s goal is to make particle physics more accessible to the public.
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