KU Abstract 2014-Propagation & Recovery of Radio Waves between Dielectric Mediums

Names: Ryan Alvarez, Olathe Northwest High School; Hannah Gibson, Bishop Seabury High School; Jason Irvin, Olathe Northwest High School

Research Teacher Mentor:  James Deane, Ottawa Sr. High School

Research Mentor: Dr. Jordan Hanson, University of Kansas

Institution: The University of Kansas


Detecting radio wave showers is one modern method of studying neutrinos. Our task was to examine the phenomenon of surface waves as they occur at the interface between air and sand. Studying surface waves will allow us to study radio waves of increased longevity. Working with surface waves could allow scientists to study more neutrino interactions, particularly in Antarctica, where current detectors are inserted a considerable distance into the ice in a non-recoverable fashion. Surface waves would be easier to detect and allow detection equipment to be reused.


A large number of tests were performed using multiple forms of antennae. Each trial tested for the decay of signal power over increments of distance between a transmitting antenna and a receiving one within a sandbox. We began measurements at 20 cm and increased by increments of 10 cm until the signal was no longer discernible from the background noise. Several different tests allow us to identify how the signal was changing naturally. Subsequent tests involved the antenna’s proximity to the sand itself, with one configuration having the antenna above and away from the sand, another with the antenna lightly placed on top, and another with it being partially buried. These distances, in theory, would affect the propagation and recovery of Surface waves, but would have little impact on the regular radio wave travel other than the normal drop in signal strength over distance. Similar tests were done at a fixed distance with a change in the angle of the antennae. From this data we attempted to isolate and extract differences to describe the behavior of surface waves.


Graphical analysis of the data showed that the regular behavior of the radio waves were proportional to distance quadratically, which is to say that the energy of the wave dissipates exponentially, and can be modeled by Volts/Radius^2. In some of our tests, we observed a much different response. We found that the energy dissipated at a much lower rate, being closer to Volts/Radius, which is consistent with other reports of surface waves. These results were found in the small sandbox during some of the earlier tests of placing the antennae on the very top of the surface, then again partially with an air test at a 90 degree rotation.

Future Testing:

Because the tests that actually demonstrated the effects of surface waves were rare and difficult to repeat, future testing should be devoted to making a more reliable strategy of producing and utilizing these waves focusing on the specific tests that succeeded for us. The purpose of finding them is fulfilled, giving indications of where they are. Future designs can use this information to narrow the search for and develop more precise tactics for surface waves.

2014 Annual Report - University of Houston and Rice University

During the academic year 2013-2014, our QuarkNet center sponsored four “Saturday Physics” events.  On October 12, 2013, Professor Frank Geurts of Rice presented “The Standard Model and the Higgs Particle” to an audience of about 100 high school students and teachers on the UH campus. On December 7, 2013, Professor Lisa Whitehead of UH presented “A Quick Tour of Neutrino Physics” to more than 75 attendees on the UH campus. On February 15, 2014 Professor Alex Freundlich of UH presented on the science and technology of solar cells to abouit 75 attendees at UH.  On April 12, 2014, Professor Jim Meen of UH presented “Superconductors: Materials for the 21st Century” to an audience of about 25 students, teachers, and parents at UH.

Our site provided Summer Research Fellowships to eight students: Nihal Dhamani, Timothy Hemlin, and Anirudha Chatterji from Dulles High School; Rebecca Fracek from Texas City High School; Brikitta Hairston from Elkins High School; Mohammed Shobaki from Dobie High School; Catherine Turet from Memorial High School; and Ryan Zeutschel from Cypress Creek High School; and fellowships to two teachers: Jeremy Pruitt from Cypress Creek High School, and Tasha Brown from Channelview High School. We received about 40 applications for the 8 student positions and 5 applications for the teacher positions. The fellowships lasted six weeks starting June 16. The fellows were also treated to four luncheon seminars by professors, Freundlich, Kouri, Hungerford, and Meen; and to a video on the science of climate change.

Our Summer Workshop for high school teachers was held June 23-27 on the Rice campus.  We had 14 teachers in attendance, some of them new to Quarknet.  Each morning we had a lecture by one of the Rice faculty members. Topics included the aurora, exoplanets, star formation,  and exotic materials. Teachers who had attended last year’s workshop requested that Frank Geurts  give his “standard model” talk again, and Marj Corcoran talked about Noether’s theorem and symmetries in physics. We had a tour of the Rice on-campus observatory and a tour of Professor Emilia Morosan’s condensed matter physics lab, including a fun demonstration of high temperature superconductors.

The afternoons were devoted to work with the cosmic ray detectors. We had four detectors from different schools, all set up in one of our labs in the physics building.  The teachers got excellent hands-on experience setting up the detectors and plateauing the counters.  We had excellent GPS reception and made a first attempt at looking for correlated air showers between two detectors in an overnight run. We pinpointed a few problems with two of the detectors and are in the process of getting those problems addressed. We have had outstanding response from the Fermilab CRMD team. In sorting out the problems with the detectors.

Submitted by 

Marj Corcoran and Robert Dubois

2014 Annual Report - U Penn

Summary of the Penn 2014 QuarkNet Program

This year we had an exceptional crew of High School researchers: N. Zavanelli, D. Ells, M. Macerato and D. Grabovsky.  They came to us armed with curiosity and tons of expectation pursuing High Energy Physics along lines that they had learned about in high school physics courses, physics club and on the internet: primarily Particle theory and Quantum physics principles.  They seemed a bit taken back when looking at pile of equipment they would use to make real world measurements of sub-atomic particles. The connections to theory and basic science weren't so clear at least for a while.  As they learned about the program through daily seminars and about the work in Experimental High Energy Physics going on at Penn, their enthusiasm grew. They seemed especially pleased by our concept that the QuarkNet project is a multi-year development where year by year student researchers sophisticate a Cosmic Ray tower that has been built, rebuilt and improved over the past 7 years. The students start by re-assembling the basic components according to documentation archived by QuarkNet groups from previous years and become familiar with the apparatus. The Cosmic Ray Tower includes two scintillator paddles to establish a readout coincidence reference time, 64 proportional drift tubes housed in 4 - 16 tube planes with readout electronics designed at Penn for use in CDF and Data Acquisition elements very similar to what is used in high energy physics experiments: An Xilinx FPGA coded for readout by the students that feeds data to a Raspberry Pi computer with resident track re construction programs again written by the students themselves. 

They are initially given the job of reading and evaluating the documentation written by students in previous years that describes the equipment left to them and using it as reference documentation to understand how to re-assemble the cosmic ray tower and calibrate the operating voltages and thresholds. As they go they are encouraged to re-write the descriptions as part of their archive for the following year. This year's group felt they didn't have enough pictures of the assembled equipment, and that the FPGA code they inherited could be written with more comments and in a different way. They responded by leaving a relatively complete description of their setup with detailed pictures and descriptions.  They gave us three presentations at two week intervals and were encouraged to pose questions to us and themselves about the equipment and completion strategies to get to something reading out if not the whole system.  They were collaborative, self-organized and accomplished a lot on their own.  Along the way developed a deep appreciation of how to write FPGA code, validate the signals from proportional drift tubes, set front end electronics thresholds and write Python code to deal with the data as it arrived.     

Towards the end of the program we went on a field trip to Brookhaven National Laboratory where Helio Takai took us on a guided tour.  We visited the BNL Instrumentation group where Paul O'Connor led the tour and then went for a guided tour of the Star Detector. We returned late in the evening with time for plenty of discussion during the three hour ride each way.

Finally they have left us with a short presentation to be sent to next year's QuarkNet students in advance of the start of the program to give them a head start on the project. 

I was most impressed by their adaptability in all forms during the program, leaving old expectations behind and allowing new ideas and simple realities focus their work.  Most interesting was a complete change in the way that data was acquired by the FPGA code and sent to the Raspberry Pi. With some encouragement from us, they went from a simple leading edge initiated timing readout to a counter driven scope like acquisition reporting the state of the FPGA inputs from all tubes for a fixed number of 10ns system clock periods.  This time sequenced array of 0's and 1's  provided a way to find the arrival of the earliest signals from the drift tubes without having to know (with significant precision) when to expect them.   This approach required reprogramming the FPGA and the Raspberry Pi and was written exclusively by them in the last three days of the QuarkNet program and it worked!  While no time was left for physics analysis, they were able to get sensible signals from the drift tubes and left ideas for the next year's students to carry on.  You may notice in their comments that there wasn’t enough time to make the Cosmic Ray Tower perform its expected track finding function, but all in all this year’s program was a great success.

Mitch Newcomer

Well-written Annual Report

The JHU Experimental Particle Physics Group sponsored its annual QuarkNet Workshop in the Bloomberg Center the week of August 4-8. This is the 7th year JHU has been part of the national  QuarkNet  program.  This  year’s workshop included 13 teachers, nine of whom had been in the program before. The teachers came from a wide variety of backgrounds. There were both  male and female teachers representing Balti- more City and non-Baltimore City schools, public and private schools, sin- gle  sex  and  regular  schools,  as  well secular and religious schools.

The workshop format was talks in the morning and “lab” in the afternoon. The talks ranged beyond just experimental and theoretical particle physics, including the WMAP experiment, cosmology, condensed matter physics, superconductivity and global warming. Speakers from the JHU faculty and research staff included Bruce Barnett, Bill Blair, Chia Ling  Chien,  Andrei  Gritsan,  David Kaplan, David Larson, Petar Maksimovic and Raman Sundrum. One of the high school teachers, James Rittner, made two presentations, one on particle physics and the other on his experience at CERN as a QuarkNet teacher representative. The afternoon labs included a lot of variety. The lab for the first two days was led by a QuarkNet teacher from Kansas, Laurie Cleavenger, in collabora- tion with Pauline Oji, a JHU QuarkNet teacher. The lab for the last three days was led by James Rittner and Bruce Barnett. There were two primary activities: 1) introduction to the EPPOG Master- class program and particle physics data analysis and 2) assembly of one of the QuarkNet cosmic ray detectors. Time was allocated for the teachers to discuss other ways to get their students more interested in science. JHU particle physicists along with three of the teachers and their students joined an international masterclass program in the spring of 2007. The other teachers found this to be very interesting and expressed a desire to include their students in 2008. Also, there was in- creasing enthusiasm from the teachers in becoming more involved in  the  2008  Johns  Hopkins Physics Fair.

Mentors: Bruce Barnett, Morris Swartz

2014 Annual Report - JHU

QuarkNet Annual Report 2014

JHU Center

The JHU QuarkNet center had another successful summer, involving both high school teachers and students in its activities.  The one-week teacher workshop took place from 28 July to 1 August, and the six-week student internship ran from 30 July to 9 August.


  1. Teacher Workshop

During the mornings, teachers and students listened to a variety of talks from professors and graduate students from the Physics & Astronomy department of JHU.  See our Drupal site for details and links: /document/list-talks .  Subjects included:

  • Particle Physics
    • Mr. J. Smith – Introduction to, and History of, Particle Physics
    • Dr. A. Gritsan  - What is Higgs? A person, a field, a particle, a theory?
    • Dr. P. Maksimovic – The Standard Model and Particle Detectors
    • Dr. J. Kaplan – Higgs and electroweak symmetry breaking Q&A
    • Dr. M. Swartz – The Photoelectric Effect
    • Mr. Kevin Martz – My CERN Summer Vacation
  • Astrophysics & Cosmology
    • Dr. J. Krolik – Black Holes
    • Dr. M. Kamionkowski – Cosmic Microwave Background & B-mode Polarization
    • Dr.  T. Essinger-Hileman – The CLASS CMB Polarization Experiment
  • Education & Diversity
    • Dr.  R. Leheny – Active Learning in Introductory Physics Education
    • Ms. A. Sady – Diversity Challenges in Physics



In the afternoons, teachers concentrated on designing, constructing and testing a device for quantitative measurement of the photoelectric effect.  See our Drupal page for details: /content/afternoon-activity-2014-workshop-photoelectric-effect-leds

  1. Student Research

Approximately 11 students (4 from Towson HS, 4 paid and 3 unpaid from Hereford HS) participated in a 6-week summer research internship beginning on 30 July and running to 9 August.After a short series of introductory activities, students were set loose to pursue research topics of their own choosing.Alongside this theoretical research, students also designed and conducted experiments with the QuarkNet muon detector: one group attempted to determine a correlation between muon flux and time of day; another group attempted to determine the mean lifetime of the muon once brought to rest inside the scintillating material.

See our Drupal page for a list of topics, the research abstracts, and PDFs of the summary posters:


Topics: /document/2014-summer-research-abstracts



JHU Abstract 2014-Antimatter: History, Theory, Detection, and Potential Applications

Antimatter: History, Theory, Detection, and Potential Applications

Shaina Furman (Towson High School), Sylvie Hullinger (Towson High School), James Miller (Towson High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School) , Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


The subject of antimatter provides an intriguing field in which physicist can study both the origins of the universe as we know it and research potential medical benefits of exotic particles. Research into potential matter-antimatter asymmetries could shed light on the first few moments after the Big Bang, when matter became a dominant form of mass in the universe and antimatter mysteriously disappeared. This asymmetry, called Charge Parity (CP) violation, would explain why we are able to exist as ordinary matter and why the universe doesn’t consist of a primordial soup of radiation. CP violation can be described in terms of quark mixing probabilities in the Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa (CKM) matrix. Various experiments, including ALPHA and Babar, work to uncover the properties of antimatter that cause CP violation. Antimatter research also has more earthly applications; currently, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) can be used to accurately identify cancerous cells within the body by detecting the high-energy photons that are emitted during electron- positron annihilation. In addition, antiprotons can be fired into tissue in order to irradiate cancerous cells in a precise volume while causing minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissues. Unfortunately, the cost of antimatter severely limits the development of these processes; currently, one gram of antimatter costs 100 trillion dollars to produce.

JHU Abstract 2014-The Cosmic Microwave Background

The Cosmic Microwave Background

Michael Mistretta (Hereford High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


My research was focused on learning more about the cosmic microwave background (CMB) and the information about the early stages of the universe which it contains. I read through various publications regarding the CMB including those from COBE, WMAP, PLANCK, and BICEP-2 to understand what kind of information that can be gained from analyzing the CMB and how these researchers are using these data to refine various theories about the behavior of our universe. The CMB is the afterglow of the Big Bang, it is essentially a snapshot of the universe as it was immediately following the Big Bang and can provide key insight into how the universe became what it is today. Its discovery alone was predicted in the early 60’s by the early Big Bang theories, and once it was discovered it became the smoking gun for the Big Bang theory. NASA’s COBE satellite later found that temperature of the light emitted from the CMB was, although astonishingly uniform, anisotropic to one part in one hundred thousand. COBE was then followed by more advanced telescopes such as WMAP and PLANCK which measured these anisotropies with much more precision. Researchers believe that these slight temperature variations could be a result of density perturbations in the early universe. Recent discovery of b-mode polarization in the radiation emitted by the CMB, as detected by BICEP-2, is believed to be evidence of gravitational waves in the very early stages of the universe, which could potentially provide insight for a refined theory of Cosmic Inflation. Research of the CMB is essential to understanding various aspects of our universe such as inflation, how galaxies and other celestial bodies were formed, and unlocking some of the mysteries of dark matter and energy.

JHU Abstract 2014-Measuring Average Muon Decay Time Using Cosmic Ray Detector

Measuring Average Muon Decay Time Using Cosmic Ray Detector

Luke Bender (Towson High School), Adam Der (Hereford High School), Shaina Furman (Towson High School), Michael Mistretta (Hereford High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


Our goal was to determine the lifetime of a muon. A muon decays into an electron and two neutrinos. When the muon is stopped in the cosmic ray muon detector the detector looks for two flashes the first being the muon being stopped and the second a pulse from the emission of an electron. The time for a muon to decay has been found to be about 2.2 microseconds. We attempted to get our data as close to this number as possible. We hoped that as the amount of data increased the closer our calculated lifetime would come to this number. We ran the detector for 5 weeks, running it for 24-hour periods starting at 9am. When our data was first collected we calculated the lifetime based on our results to be about 2.6 microseconds. Toward the end of our collection our calculated result had decreased to 2.4 microseconds. The more data we collected the more accurate our results were. If we were to continue collecting data our result could be calculated to be the same as the actual lifetime. Our research was successful and helped us to learn about the decay of muons. We could continue our research by testing if the decay rate changes at different temperatures or different angles from the sun.

JHU Abstract 2014-Searching for the Origins of Cosmic Rays

Searching for the Origins of Cosmic Rays


Anthony Fedorchak (Marriotts Ridge High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


The purpose of my research was to investigate the currently accepted source of cosmic rays, and then to branch out and make predictions as to other possible sources of cosmic rays based on the characteristics of the identified source. My research was primarily focused around a scientific journal published in early 2013 that pertained to data taken from the Fermi telescope, NASA’s telescope that is focused on analyzing high energy sources in space. This publication contained information about the processes used to identify Supernovae Remnants, namely IC 443 and W44, as sources of cosmic rays. After accessing this, I analyzed the energy levels of output of Pulsars, Active Galactic Nuclei, and the Sun, in order to try and hypothesize possible additional sources of cosmic rays, since all 3 of these bodies contain characteristics similar to Supernovae Remnants. Gamma ray energy levels were used to identify Supernovae Remnants as sources of cosmic rays through looking at the gamma rays born from a very specific type of neutral-pion decay, a type of decay specific to cosmic ray collisions. I then found interest in the effects that cosmic rays have here on Earth. I found information attributing 15% of the yearly exposure of radiation to cosmic rays, and also found that one end result of cosmic ray collisions within Earth’s atmosphere is the production of Carbon 14, which is central to the process of carbon dating. I continued my research, looking into the effects that cosmic rays can have on electrical equipment on, or in orbit around, Earth. I’ll continue looking into other effects that cosmic rays have here on Earth, and try to obtain a deeper understanding of the processes that generate these cosmic rays. 

JHU Abstract 2014-Reconstructing Bosons and Mesons Using Data from CMS

Reconstructing Mass of W, Z Bosons and J/Psi Meson Using CMS Data


Adam Der (Hereford High School)  Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson high School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)



            The purpose of this research was to reconstruct the mass of the Z boson, W boson, and J/Psi meson by using data of the particles decay given to me by CMS. After reconstructing the mass these particles I also researched on how the CMS machine itself detects these particles and the particles they decay into. By reconstructing the mass of these particles I can better understand their movements along with the properties of the particles they decay into. Also I now better understand how these particles are detected through the CMS machine.  When reconstructing the masses of these bosons and mesons I found that the Z boson has a mass of 91 GeV compared to its actual mass of 91.2 GeV, the W boson has a mass of 80 GeV compared to its actual mass of 80.4 GeV, and the J/Psi has a mass of approximately 3.1 GeV compared to its actual mass of 3.0969 GeV. An important relationship when reconstructing the mass of a W boson is the relationship between its transverse mass and its true mass. When looking at the transverse mass histogram of a boson you want to look for a drop off in the histogram. Right after the peak into the drop off is approximately the true mass of the boson. You must use this relationship for the W boson because this boson will decay in a lepton and a neutrino. The neutrino cannot be detected by the CMS machine so it is represented as missing transverse energy.  Researching the mass and decays of Bosons and Mesons allows us to take a better look at high energy particles as well as anti particles that are produced during their decay.