Calculating the Relative Permittivity Constants of Various Dielectric Materials Using a Parallel Plate Capacitor

Scintillator X

Scintillators and Borosilicate Plates

Background Data in Nuclear Interactions

Names: Sandhya Ravikumar, Lawrence Free State High School, Lawrence, Kansas

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Research Mentor: Prof. Philip Baringer, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: This research is being conducted in an effort to reduce background data from the data collected from the CMS experiment at the LHC. Whenever experiments are conducted at the LHC, there is always a certain amount of redundant data that detracts from the useful data collected. I am hoping to eventually create a general fit function to eliminate the unnecessary data that comes with nuclear interaction experiments in any plot. Fit functions are essentially exponential functions created to match experimental data and adjust hardware measurements. The fit function serves the purpose of reducing accidental data collected by the sensitive instruments of the CMS pixel shield. It also adjusts the positioning of the machinery itself, as the machines shift from heating and cooling.

Methods: I began by familiarizing myself with the ROOT data analysis software. Anna Kropivnitskaya, a contact at CERN, provided me with Monte Carlo plots and plots from the CMS experiments I was also given a rough fit function program to refine to the graph. After fitting one graph, I moved on to the next, continuing with several graphs. I ran into several technical issues, mainly with software bugs and compatibility issues. ROOT operates best using a Linux or Mac OS, and having a Windows computer, I had to create a bootable USB drive using Ubuntu, a Linux distributor. Ubuntu had issues starting up with my computer, after which I had further issues getting it to work with ROOT. However, all issues were rectified relatively quickly. I had to use an older version of ROOT and use a different method of turning the USB drive into a bootable drive.

Results: I have created fit functions for various graphs, effectively eliminating background data and leaving a cleaner and more functional data set. By changing the fit program’s parameters, values, and operations, I have created several plots that are far more usable than they were in their original state.  I achieved the results I hoped for, but I would like to continue working to create a more generalized fit function that would reduce background in any plot. I believe with more time and practice, the “universal” function should come rather easily.

Meaning to Larger Project: This research will help get to the truly useful and necessary data collected by nuclear interaction experiments. Once preliminary data is collected at the LHC, the unneeded and superfluous data can be eliminated by using various fit functions. The remaining data can be utilised easily and properly, without the obstruction of background. If a general fit function is created, the data and fit programs will be even more useful and applicable. The function also can be used to adjust the positioning of the equipment of the CMS tracker itself. As the machine heats and cools with use, it expands and contracts, causing components to shift. A version of the function can be used to measure and readjust the physical positioning of the trackers pixel shield and support beams.

Future Research: I have had success in creating individual fit functions for various plots by adjusting the parameters and values of the function. The logical next step is to create a universal fit function that would eliminate background from any CMS plot. By continuing to create fits for individual graphs, it would be relatively simple to establish a pattern and create a function that would only need to be adjusted slightly for differing graphs.


  • Eilish Gibson: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Emily Smith: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Anna Kropivnitskaya: Research Associate, University of Kansas, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland


T Quark Analysis from Generated Data

Names: Cole Brabec, Olathe Northwest High School

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Research Mentor: Prof. Philip Baringer, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: The Purpose of this research is to investigate the possible existence of a fourth generation of quarks, specifically the T quark. This quark has many applications in modern physics such as solving the Hierarchy Problem or explaining the low Higgs Mass.

Note: The T quark is the particle formerly known as the t’ quark.

Methods: We used C++ and the software framework ROOT to analyze Monte Carlo files generated from MadGraph. We used these files to investigate the characteristics exhibited by the particles such as their phi, eta and transverse momentum. In order to determine what cut would maximize the data included from the signal file while minimizing the data included from the background file, we created a macro to calculate the figure of merit using the function FoM = S/Bk, where S is the amount of points within in the cuts from the signal file, B  is the amount of points within the cuts from the background file and k is a scaling factor. The scaling factor was calculated using the relative sizes and probabilities of decay between the background and signal file; for these files it had a value of 802. The optimal cut would be used to determine which data received from the CMS exhibited signs of T quark decay

We also had to analyze the properties of the forward jet; the light quarks generated external to the T quark decay chain. This was difficult at first as in ROOT it is not possible to check for the grandparent or great-grandparent of a particle. To solve this issue,  we looked at light quarks whose parents were other light quarks; this occurred only in the forward jet.

We had issues attempting to create cuts for both the Z boson and the forward jet, as these were not present in the background file. To work around this issue, we treated every light quark in the background file as the “forward jet”. For the Z boson, we were unable to develop a method to accurately imitate a presence of Z bosons in the background file and thus we were not able to generate meaningful cuts for them.

Results: Analyzing our cuts, it appears that the optimal cuts arePT > 410 GeVand < 2.4 for the top;HT > 1100; and PT < 570 and < 2.4for the Forward Jet at T quark mass 1 TeV. Cuts for other T quark masses were also generated and are available on a spreadsheet. We were also able to develop a piece of software to quickly and efficiently calculate the optimum cuts for different background and signal files.

Meaning to Larger Project: These cuts help refine the search range for finding the T quark. It will help us when analyzing real data to more quickly find the signs of a T quark. This data will also be used to help publish a paper about the T quark.

Future Research: The next step is analyze data directly from the CMS within our given cuts to see if it lines up with our predictions for the T quark. We also need a background file with Z bosons to better refine our cuts.


  • Zachary Flowers: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Emily Smith: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Dr. Alice Bean: Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Searching for Evidence of a 4th Generation Quark

Names: Grant Gollier, Bishop Seabury Academy, Lawrence, KS

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Research Mentor: Prof. Philip Baringer, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: We are looking for evidence of a fourth generation quark which could help answer the hierarchy problem and specifically the odd discontinuity of mass.

Methods: I started by learning CERN’s ROOT data analysis framework. I used an online tutorial from Nevis Laboratories at Columbia University and help from fellow student researchers. I began by using demo files from the Nevis tutorial then proceeded to using ‘real’ files, plotting simple variables. In order to solve many of the problems I faced, I turned to both the ROOT documentation and the ROOT Talk forum. In addition to the learning curve of ROOT, I was new to C++ as well and had to learn the basic syntax and style of C++ as I went. After this introductory phase I began to look at two different decay modes for T (WbT and ZtT), plotting R, , Ht, and ptin one and two dimensional histograms. I then looked at these plots and decided upon cuts to maximize SB*k where S is the number of signal events, B is the number of background events, and k is the scale factor. This scale factor was necessary because I was only looking at one or two decay modes for as opposed to all possible decays. This scale factor accounts for the different probabilities/branching ratios.

Results: I developed multiple different scripts for processing these cuts. I looked at multiple T masses ranging from 800 GeV to 2.5 TeV. I then processed all the mass files with these cuts and passed the remaining events to plot , Ht, and pt.

Meaning to Larger Project: The hypothetical T quark offers a solution to the Hierarchy problem, which the solution to and discovery of this T would be pushing the boundaries of what is currently known in particle physics. Specifically, the cuts I was looking at would improve the quality of data I am gathering.

Future Research: As I ran short on time towards the end, I would like to spend more time analyzing the cuts I made and look for other ways to improve them. Also, following the use of these cuts more analysis would be needed to then identify the T and prove its existence.


Without the help of many of the following people this project would not have been possible

  • Zach Flowers, Student, University of Kansas

  • Emily Smith, Student, University of Kansas

  • Prof. Alice Bean, University of Kansas


[Link #1:

Link #2: ]

KSU Annual Report

Kansas State University QuarkNet Center, 2015-2016 Annual Report


The K-State group held a week-long workshop and a Masterclass (and Masterclass Orientation) in the last fiscal year. 

The Masterclass Orientation was held on February 20, 2016 and was attended by 9 teachers.

The Masterclass was held on March 4, 2016 and was attended by 8 teachers and 27 students on site and 1 teacher and 18 students participated from their high school. KSU Physics hosted a short program of demos and hands-on physics activities and we also toured the KSU Nuclear Reactor. Most KSU HEP and Cosmology graduate students helped with the Masterclass activities.

A week-long workshop was held at KSU on August 8-12, 2016. This was attended by 13 teachers. The first two days were devoted to cosmic ray detectors and four teachers brought their detectors and took data and measured the speed of muons, closing with short talks of their observations. The teachers plan to keep their cosmic ray detectors running their schools. On Wednesday the teachers built cloud chambers and got them running and will try to continue using them in their schools. Martin Shaffer ran the activities on the first three days. Tim Bolton gave two talks, on cloud chambers and on the LHC & CMS. Brian Washburn gave an extended lecture and presentation with demos on electromagnetic radiation and polarization. Four teachers stayed for the last two days and worked on CMS e-Labs with Shane Wood.

On other fronts, KSU QuarkNet teachers continued to avail themselves of national QuarkNet and other HEP-related opportunities seeded by QuarkNet. Emma Detrixhe participated in the 2016 Data Camp at Fermilab.

The KSU group remains strong in its thirteenth year of existence. Approximately two and a half dozen teachers participate, a core group of a dozen or so regularly, and the rest at the rate of once every other meeting.  We continue to specialize in serving small rural high schools throughout the state. Plans for 2016-2017 include an early spring Masterclass orientation workshop and participation in a Masterclass in late spring 2017.

Boston QuarkNet Center Annual Report

As indicated in meeting Minutes included below, we had another active year at the Boston Center (in continuous operation since 1999).

Mentors:  Prof. George Alverson, Northeastern University
                  Prof. Ulrich Heintz, Brown University


At our meeting on Wednesday (11/4) we welcomed a new member to the group. Hema Roychowdhury teaches physics with Gerry Gagnon at Newton South High School. Along with Hema and Gerry, Mike Wadness and Catherine Newman (Medford High School), Chris Perkins (Wheeler School), and George Odell (North Andover High School) and Rick Dower rounded out the attendees list.

  Hema showed an interesting block on block friction problem that exhibited a sort of hysteresis behavior with the resulting motion depending on whether force was applied that increased from zero or decreased from a high value. This provoked an interesting conversation on visualization techniques that various teachers used to help their students conceptualize friction and the non-rigid behavior of materials.

 Conversation about the Baseball Lab at Mass Lowell prompted Hema to recommend high speed camera YouTube videos from Time Warp on bat-ball collisions and billiard ball collisions, which we watched.

Others recommended the Myth Busters episode on bullets simultaneously dropped and fired horizontally.

Mike Wadness showed his collection of 1-minute videos made by students to advocate their Masterclass experience.

George Odell sung the praises of the book 30-second Quantum Theory.

Then we did some experimental work with the Perimeter Institute (PI) LED apparatus for finding the value of Planck’s constant.

One set of apparatus with a lab guide is available from PI for about $20 Canadian or a set of 8 kits with a lab guide for about $200 Canadian.

Chris Perkins offered an interesting modification of the experimental process by using a Vernier spectrophotometer to measure the actual peak wavelength of each LED (which may differ by 5 - 6 nm from the nominal values) and a microscope focused on the LED to get a better read on voltage at which it turns on (or off). 



 At our meeting on Wednesday (1/27) we welcomed a new member to the group. Robert Moore is the new Physics teacher and Science Chariman at Roxbury Latin School. Though new to particle physics, he is a long-time physics teacher, and he is enthusiastic about joining the Boston QuarkNet group. We are happy to have him and happy that he provides his classroom for our meeting site. In addition to Robert, Hema Roychowdhury and Gerry Gagnon from Newton South High School, Mike Wadness and Catherine Newman from Medford High School, Amanda Harnden (Dedham High School), George Odell (North Andover High School), Mike Hirsh (Needham High School), and Rick Dower participated.

After conversation and snacks, Mike Wadness took us through the Masterclass Update Workshop. He walked through the schedule for the day (9:00 am – 4:00 pm on Saturday March 5 at Northeastern University) including talks to students about particle physics, a tour of a university physics lab, lunch with physicists and physics grad students, student analysis of CMS data using the updated iSpy data visualization tool, and a video conference with students from another participating QuarkNet center.

Then we practiced doing our own analysis of W and Z events with the new webgl version of the iSpy tool. The tool is very powerful and has several features that make analysis interesting.

Finally, we looked at the student activities (Rolling with Rutherford, Quark Workbench, and Calculation of the Z Mass) that teachers should lead their students through in preparation for their participation in the Masterclass. The time flew by, and we went away with enthusiasm to recruit students to attend the March Masterclass.

All the activities (and more) are available on the Orientation link at /page/masterclass-library-project-map-2016 .

Now that winter is here, it is time to think about summer. The QuarkNet Data Camp (Bootcamp) for teachers is scheduled for Sunday July 10 – Friday July 15. Travel, room, and board and a stipend for participation are paid by QuarkNet.  Many of us have been to the camp and found it to be a great opportunity to learn about particle physics and data analysis and to work with teachers from around the USA. Amanda is applying again for the CERN HST program through QuarkNet. She wasn’t chosen last year, but as a consolation she was sponsored to attend a one-week science and arts teacher workshop in Greece. We all sympathized with her hardship at having to spend a week on the Mediterranean during the summer.



At our May 25th meeting Mike Wadness, George Odell, and Rick Dower spent an enjoyable couple of hours talking physics and physics teaching. Rick set up a home-made interferometer demo adapted from instructions on the LIGO e-Lab web site. We could see interference fringes and note the instrument’s sensitivity by watching the fringe pattern shift at the slightest touch on the instrument’s base or even on the table that the instrument rested upon.

Next, Rick described the early history of x-ray experiments and described efforts about 100 years ago to characterize x-rays as particles or waves. The wave properties were demonstrated in 1912 by Max von Laue (Nobel Prize in 1914) and his students W. Friedrich and P. Knipping with photographs of diffraction spots produced in response to x-rays impinging on the regular arrangement of atoms in a copper sulfate crystal. William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg (joint Nobel Prize in 1915) developed an x-ray spectrometer that used a crystal to measure x-ray wavelengths. They began using it to determine the crystal structure and atomic spacing of a variety of materials. Henry Moseley in 1914 used such a spectrometer to measure the wavelengths of characteristic secondary x-rays given by samples of various elements. His measurements allowed the identification of the atomic number of the elements. Moseley’s data was shown to fit into the scheme of atomic structure proposed by Niels Bohr (1912-1913, Nobel Prize in 1922). Student and teacher versions of a worksheet that leads a student through the development of Bohr’s theory are available from Rick Dower.

Finally, Mike showed his students’ classroom work with his CRMD measuring the time-of-flight of cosmic ray muons. The data is available on the Cosmic Ray e-Lab web site. The results highlight the need for relativistic considerations for muons traveling at near light speed. Mike says the Tutorial on the time-of-flight study is a particularly good resource on the web site.

We hope for a good turn-out at our summer Workshop August 8-11. We will look at the first 100 years of particle physics in some detail and help Amanda Herndon assemble a cosmic ray detector for use in her classroom.


August 8-11, 2016 Boston QuarkNet Summer Workshop

 On August 8-10 Amanda Harnden, Mike Wadness, Pat Corcoran, Gerry Gagnon, Mike Hirsh, and Rick Dower gathered at Roxbury Latin School for our Summer Workshop. On August 9, Catherine Newman and Henry, the newest addition to her family, joined us. Much oohing and ahhing over Henry did not distract us too much from our focus on experimental exercises related to early particle physics. The Workshop title was “The First 100 Years of Particle Physics.” We managed to make it through the first 80 years  (1895 – 1975). Activities included determining Avogadro’s’ number from measurements on halite (NaCl) crystals), determining the helical pitch and radius of a retractable pen coil spring and determining the pitch length and radius of the double helix in a DNA strand from measurements of Rosalind Franklin’s x-ray diffraction photo, measuring electron mass with an electron beam tube, measuring absorption of radioactivity from a piece of uranium ore to demonstrate the existence of beta and gamma radiation, analyzing data from beta spectrometer measurements to plot the energy spectrum of electrons from the beta decay of Tl-204 and Sr-90. We also had presentations by Rick Dower on the history of neutron discovery by James Chadwick and the development of the cyclotron by Ernest Lawrence. Analysis of bubble chamber photos yielded the mass and mean lifetime of the S- particle and the mass and strangeness of the W- particle. On 8/10 we examined the history of the 1974 November Revolution in which the J/Y particle discovery was announced and its significance as a charm-anticharm meson solidified the understanding of the quark structure of hadrons.

At the conclusion of each of the first three days of the workshop, we worked on assembling the scintillator paddles for Amanda’s cosmic ray detector. On the final day (8/11), we were joined by Tammy Kjonaas and Scott Saltman and all joined in to help finish the construction, download the EQUIP software, and help Amanda get her detector up and running.

A good time was had by all participants.


Other Activities

In addition to attending our regular meetings, several Boston members engaged in a various other QuarkNet activities. Several teachers brought students to the Masterclass at Northeastern in March. Hema attended the 2016 Fermilab Data Camp at which Gerry was a Fellow. Mike Wadness attended the annual Virtual Center meeting, held this year at Fermilab in August. George Odell and Rick spread the QuarkNet gospel at the Massachusetts Teachers Association meeting at UMass Amherst in a workshop in August. Rick attended summer workshops at Cincinnati, Johns Hopkins, and Pennsylvania. He conducted a LIGO e-Lab workshop at Oklahoma State in June and assisted in the CMS e-Lab and Minerva data reviews at Fermilab in August.


Respectfully submitted,

Rick D


Vanderbilt 2016

Vanderbilt University QuarkNet 2016


The Vanderbilt University QuarkNET group is mentored by William (Bill) Gabella, which much help from emeritus mentor Medford Webster and a volunteer teacher Terry King.  We advise the teachers and students on the use of the Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors (CRMDs), we maintain them, and we help with either setup of our loaned out CRMDs or with those that are permanently at the school.

Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors

The Vanderbilt QuarkNET has three conventional cosmic ray muon detectors  and one "unconventional" one---it has smaller scintillator paddles.  The one with the small scintillators is most useful for looking at attenuation of the muon flux with materials, like water, or bricks, stacked between pairs of scintillators.  These are routinely loaned to our high school teachers for their club and classroom work.  Starting a few years ago, our most active high schools now have their own CRMDs, with four sets in the area.

This year Meaghan Berry's research class borrowed two of the loaners and later setup the one they received from Fermilab.  She ran two (or more) research groups on these detectors.  And one of the groups presented their results to the Science Club of Nashville, an organization of mostly young professionals with a history in science or technology or currently working in science or technology or just interested.  The four high school students did an excellent job presenting the CRMD, which they setup and ran as a demo, and their research with it.  They attempted to correlate pressure and temperature with muon flux with a null result.  Still they did a very good job presenting cosmic rays, the resulting muons, a nd the detection with the CRMDs.  Their presentation was very well received.

Summer Workshop 25-29 July 2016

Following our tradition, we had several talks by local experts, on the LHC, CMS physics and computing, Mapping the Universe, and the CMS Forward Pixel upgrade. Thanks to Andrew Melo, Andreas Berlind, and Will Johns for the very interesting talks and discussion. Bill talked after lunch introducing Gravitational Waves, mostly about the sources and the nature of the Quadrupole formula for gravitational radiation.

Tuesday and Wednesday were all about the LIGO eLab---looking at the data from the Hanford and Livingston seismometers. Ken Cecire from Notre Dame and national QuarkNet led the two day workshop. It was interesting to correlate data with earthquakes, thunderstorms, and other events. Checkout the "agenda" link below and especially the "Info on frequency bands" that appears. This is from Dale Ingram who also gave us and two other institutions a virtual tour of Hanford LIGO.  We also had a virtual tour of LIGO Hanford and were joined by several other QuarkNET Workshops.


Thursday was all about a day trip to Marshall Space Flight Center (and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center) in Huntsville, AL. We were hosted by Scott Anderson, who looks like a great contact for teachers---free stuff was mentioned as well as teacher space camps with the possibility of funding/grants to attend! We heard from Trey Cate, the deputy communications person, about the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's new heavy lift vehicle. He discussed the distant retrograde orbit on the far-side of the moon for construction of the Mars space craft and rocket. He also discussed the Orion crew module that can sit on top of the SLS. We had a bus tour after lunch to see Marshall itself and hear about the history. One stop was the Payload Operations and Integration Center, where we visitors could look at operators in the control room guiding and monitoring science experiments on the International Space Station.

Friday seemed to be all about throwing bottles of water that had a leaking hole cut in their sides. But actually it started with Terry King guiding us through the construction of two fun LIGO/Gravitation demos...the spandex warped spacetime, and the tennis ball merging like blackholes. Very Fun! We also assembled the Cosmic Ray Muon Detector and looked at the Equip program, to refresh our memories. The last thing we did was to throw leaking water bottles at Bill and Meaghan from a spiral staircase. By-the-way, they do not leak the whole time...something to do with the equivalence principle.

Great Week! Thanks to our speakers, to Ken, and to the teachers that make it interesting.

The Monday and Tuesday talks for Vanderbilt QuarkNet 2016 can be found here especially other formats, and linked below.

Gabella's Welcome .
Gabella's LHC talk .
Melos's CMS Physics and Computing .
Berlind's Mapping the Universe .
John's CMS Forward Pixel Upgrade.
Gabella's Gravitational Waves, Sources .
Cecire's agenda for the VU Workshop.
Gabella's LIGO and Saulson's Description of Light Stretching .
LIGO's Educators page, and the last link for the Educator's Guide.

Bill's iPhone shots includes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with Ken Cecire, fun with the interferometer, and Thursday in Huntsville.
Bill's camera shots with the virtual tour of Hanford LIGO and the interferometer, as well as Huntsville. Includes a picture or two of Scott Anderson.
Scott's pictures while we were touring the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Hunstville, AL. Gallery has the full resolution pictures if you keep clicking on them.

Other Links of Interest

Local web page

Facebook group page

Vanderbilt QuarkNET Page (drupal, i.e. here)   /group/vanderbilt-university-quarknet-center

Top QuarkNET i2u2 page    /

[Written and edited by Bill Gabella 20160907]

BNL Annual Report