Notre Dame QuarkNet Center 2014 Annual Report

The Notre Dame QuarkNet Center (NDQC) continued to hold weekly meetings in 2014. A highlight of this year’s meetings was Lead Teacher Patrick Mooney helping the group to learn MatLab at one meeting per month.

The group engaged in several outreach projects, including its annual participation in Science Alive! in South Bend and Science Spectacular in Elkhart. At each of these, QuarkNet teachers, staff, and students affiliated with the NDQC put together and presented hands-on exhibits to help introduce particle physics to everyone from small children to adults.

The University of Notre Dame gave an award to members of NDQC to travel to Chile for a collaborative workshop at Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Santiago, where Pat Mooney and Ken Cecire facilitated an ATLAS Data Workshop for teachers. This led to participation by those teachers and students they selected in International Masterclasses culminating in a videoconference with teachers and students at Notre Dame and Duke.

Notre Dame participated not only in an ATLAS masterclass, but also in a separate CMS masterclass, to which teachers Susan Sakimoto and Brian Dolezal brought students and had a videoconference with Fermilab. Students of teachers Dan Walsh and Aaron McNeely also participated in Exoplanet workshops which the two teachers had helped design and which were brought to their schools by QuarkNet staff, students, and faculty.

NDQC teacher Jeremy Wegner was one of the five sent from the US in summer 2014 to attend the three-week CERN High School Teachers program.

Summer research at Notre Dame’s QuarkNet Center was comprised of research in seven areas:  the CMS Upgrade, Astrophysics, Digital Visualization Theater, Project GRAND, Cosmic Ray Detectors, Biocomplexity and CMS Data.

CMS Upgrade continued research looking for a detector which can tolerate the high levels of radiation found near the beam line.  Our line of research began with the idea of imbedding an optical fiber in a quartz tube.  The quartz tube is rad hard so it will tolerate the environment for long periods of time.  We have now replaced the optical fiber with a liquid detector.  The advantage of using a liquid is that when it eventually is destroyed by the radiation it can be flushed out and replaced with new liquid.   We used a MatLab program to compare the light output in different samples.  We also used a spectrophotometer to compare samples of liquid detector irradiated at various levels.  Members of our team include Mark Vigneault, Mike McKenna and Barry Baumbaugh, all of whom are staff from Notre Dame QuarkNet, plus John Taylor and Brian Dolezal, high school teachers, and two high school students E. Beach and C. Whitaker.

The Astrophysics group studied the unusual eclipsing variable star EE Cephei. Using a CCD and colored filters at the Morrison Observatory, Jordan Hall of Science, and images of EE Cephei were obtained on four separate evenings. The CCD images were analyzed to obtain magnitudes in blue, infrared, visual, and red wavelengths. The magnitude measurements were submitted to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) for inclusion in a public database. The astrophysics group also participated in asteroid research sponsored by the International Asteroid Search Collaboration (IASC). The students used software to analyze sixteen data sets of asteroid images. Each data set was used to determine the positions of known and potential asteroids, and reports for each data set were submitted to the IASC. The student members of the astrophysics group A. Lucker, K. Huitsing, and J. Purcell. The teacher members of the astrophysics group were Aaron McNeely, Dan Walsh, and Caroline Fletcher. 

The Digital Visualization Theater group wrote a new version of our hour-long theater show this summer, incorporating a new theme to the presentation (scale of the universe from our daily life down to the subatomic level). New models, scripting, and presentation text were created, edited, and organized into a performance, which we gave at the conclusion of the summer’s research period. Our student members this past summer were M. Allin and C. Ritenour, our teacher members were Ken Andert and Ed Fidler, and our QuarkNet staff member was Jeff Marchant.

Project GRAND is an array of 64 proportional wire chamber stations, located on the north edge of the Notre Dame campus.  Project GRAND provides insights into the origins of cosmic rays from extraterrestrial sources, and also permits a method of detecting solar events and the ways in which they interact with Earth.  The experiment was originally operated in support of graduate and undergraduate research programs under the direction of Dr. John Poirier, Professor Emeritus of Physics, and was constructed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Maintenance and upkeep of the detector array and its associated hardware and software is on ongoing task that is labor-intensive.  Numerous repairs and upgrades continue to increase the operability of the experiments and reduce the workload required to operate and maintain the experiment.  The project serves as a valuable outreach tool for high school students and teachers to study astrophysics. Teachers Cal Swartzendruber, Terry Barchfeld and Susan Sakimoto were assisted by two students, S. Burzynski and C. Gonzalez.

The Cosmic Ray Detector group evaluated all detectors at the NDQC.  This included making sure the voltages were at their optimum setting, checking connections and looking for light leaks.  We now have five complete sets for classroom use. The group also conducted an elevation study at Jordan Hall of Science to check for cosmic rate changes at different floors.  The last study we conducted was calculating the speed of a muon.  The teachers involved in this study were Jeff Chorny and Ben Mullins.  The two students involved were N. Lohr and M. Wheeler.

The Biocomplexity group developed a protein binding model for biochemistry, examined several different types of “random walks” (typically used in stochastic modeling), and revamped and redesigned the University of Notre Dame’s Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Biocomplexity teacher website:  Computational Biomodeling. The student member of the group was B. Bahr and the teacher members of the biocomplexity group were Michael Sinclair and Helene Dauerty. 

The CMS Data Group analyzed 2000 dimuon events, 500,000 top candidate events and 500,000 simulated top background events during the summer of 2014. The dimuon events were analyzed with Matlab. The top events were analyzed with C++ and ROOT. The student members of the CMS Data Group were N. Bhagat, P. Evans and L. Swartzendruber. The teacher members of the CMS Data Group were Jill Ziegler, Daniela Gayoso and Patrick Mooney.