Physicists at the University of California, Riverside are reaching out to local high school students again. For the fifth year in a row, the Department of Physics and Astronomy hosted the International Particle Physics Masterclass on March 13 and 14.
Through daylong lectures and exercises on March 13, the physics faculty introduced particle physics, experiments and detectors to students from San Jacinto High School (30 students), Lakeside High School, Lake Elsinore (4 students) and Riverside Preparatory School, Oro Grande (25 students).
The next day, the faculty facilitated a 60-minute videoconference between the students, and groups of high school students in Portugal, France and Slovakia, who all had undergone the same set of exercises. The students visiting UC Riverside were able to compare their results to those of the other groups during the video conference.
“For the first time we will have three schools participating, and for the first time we needed to limit the number of students,” said Bill Gary, a professor of physics and the lead organizer of the masterclass at UC Riverside. “There were more students who wanted to come than we can handle.”
For the second year in a row, the exercises wer entirely based on data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. The students look through events to identify elementary particles called Z bosons.
The Z particle can decay in various ways, each of which leaves a unique signature in the detectors. In their experiments, the students identify Z particles using two of these decay signatures. They also learn how to collect event candidates without biasing the results, and how similar signatures are used to search for new particles at the LHC.
“Our goal is to bring high school students to the university, to get them excited about attending college and studying science,” said Gary, whose research involves the study of rare particle decays and searches for new forms of matter. “We want to teach them about particle physics and show them how science research works in practice. It has been our experience in past years that after finishing the masterclasses, the students have a much larger appreciation for particle physics and for what we do at CERN.”
The masterclass is an annual program of the European Particle Physics Outreach Group, and is an interactive exercise in which high school students analyze specific particle physics data, receive coaching from expert particle physicists and their teacher, and work with peers far from home.
Particle-physics masterclasses began in the United Kingdom in 1997. Each year more than 4000 high school students in 20 countries participate in the program.
The partnership between UCR and local schools provides an opportunity to enhance student achievement and promote a college-going culture. This unique opportunity to study physics through first hand experiences gets students excited about attending college and pursuing further study in the science field.
Article reproduced courtesy of UCR Today: http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/3852