Notre Dame QuarkNet Annual Report 2015
The University of Notre Dame QuarkNet Center had four main areas of activity in 2015: student and teacher research (the largest), outreach, masterclasses, and an ongoing community of teachers and physicists.
Student and teacher research – and all of the Notre Dame QuarkNet activities – are dominated by the summer program, which this year had 16 teachers and 15 students. There were seven areas of research. In the Digital Visualization Theater (DVT) project, students and teachers worked to improve and extend the digital particle physics and LHC show for the Notre Dame DVT. This show has become an important component in explaining particle physics to the Notre Dame community and beyond. The CMS Data group does sophisticated analysis of open data from CMS; for the past several years, they have been working on the analysis of top quark data in ROOT. The CMS Upgrade group works on prototyping components for the next phase of the CMS detector. The Notre Dame QuarkNet Astrophysics group studied AG Pegasi, a symbiotic variable star. AG Pegasi was undergoing an eruption in brightness, the first observed since 1885. The Biocomplexity group works on computer modeling of biological systems and creation of related learning materials. The Cosmic Ray group this year tested and commissioned QuarkNet cosmic ray detectors and then performed cosmic ray studies, including an altitude study using a detector on board a small airplane. Additional cosmic ray studies are done using Project GRAND, a cosmic ray research array located in the northern part of the Notre Dame campus. Abstracts for these projects can be found at /group/notre-dame-quarknet-center. Student research continues in the academic year with two students coming in periodically to work on the CMS Upgrade. In a new effort this year Notre Dame partnered with Indiana University (South Bend campus) for work on the PICO experiment. Two teachers and one student worked on acoustic sensors for the bubble chamber at the heart of PICO's dark matter search.
Outreach is a major component of the Notre Dame QuarkNet center. Teachers and physicists present demonstrations and activities each year in Science Spooktacular, a Halloween public science exhibition in nearby Elkhart, and Science Alive, a similar but larger exhibition at the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend in the winter. Notre Dame QuarkNet participation was again strong on 2015. Notre Dame QuarkNet also had an Andronico Luksic grant from the University to do outreach through particle physics masterclasses in February 2015 (see http://science.nd.edu/news/55530-notre-dame-quarknet-center-expands-masterclasses-in-chile/ ) with a teacher and a faculty member traveling to Chile to facilitate workshops in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catolica. Notre Dame QuarkNet gave a one-day workshop in particle physics to international high school students at Notre Dame in July 2015 as part of the International Leadership, Enrichment and Development (iLED) program and was in overall charge of the academic side of the two-week International Summer Physics Institute (iSPI) particle physics workshop for highly motivated international high school students in July and August 2015.
Notre Dame is a key participant in International Masterclasses (IMC). The effort to create the CMS masterclass was led from Notre Dame. IMC is co-coordinated from Technische Universität Dresden and Notre Dame through meetings, electronic collaboration, and reciprocal visits. Notre Dame held three masterclasses for students and teachers in 2015 – the most of any IMC Institute in North or South America and well above average worldwide. In masterclasses, students a “particle physicists for a day”, learning about particle physics, analyzing actual data from the LHC, and sharing results with other Institutes via vidoeoconferences with modrators at Fermilab or CERN. Notre Dame has also developed an astrophysics masterclass based on light curves for stars with exoplanets and brings this to classrooms each year. This year, people from Notre Dame went to John Adams High School in South Bend for a week to lead students through the exoplanet masterclass.
All of the efforts above are undergirded by a strong learning and acting community. In addition to the intensive summer work, teachers meet with mentors nearly every Monday during the academic year to learn about progress in particle physics, share experiences, and steer activities. The meetings have a videoconference component for teachers who are distant and are generally informal and easy-going. Much gets done.
Teachers, students, and physicists from the Notre Dame summer program 2015.
Students discuss CMS data analysis with Notre Dame graduate student Allison Reinsvold in iSPI.