2014 Annual Report - SCIPP/UC Santa Cruz

2014 QuarkNet Activities at SCIPP/UC Santa Cruz

(A QuarkNet Center since inception)

The 2014 program focused on our flagship activity, the QuarkNet Summer High School Student Internship Program.  The Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz continues a tradition of strong support for the QuarkNet program, providing administrative support (Vicki Johnson and Tanmayi Sai) and additional funding to enable the activities.

QuarkNet High School Internship

The High School Internship, July 7 – August 1, brought an outstanding group of six students from schools located in the Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley area to work full time on the QuarkNet cosmic ray muon detectors.  Research teacher Stuart Briber, who has been with the UCSC QuarkNet center for many years, led the students again in their four-week program.  Faculty member and SCIPP Associate Director Jason Nielsen served as faculty mentor.  UCSC physics graduate student Brendan Wells also volunteered large amounts of his time to help mentor the students.

The summer interns developed three experiments using the CRMD’s.  The first experiment evaluated the impact of the solar wind on the muon flux at the earth’s surface.  This data analysis required correlating the CMRD flux with data from NASA’s SOHO satellite.  The second experiment used the high-precision CRMD clock to measure the muon velocities in cosmic rays.  The students performing this experiment learned a great deal about the CRMD timing system and output.  The third experiment investigated the effect of lead shielding on the measured muon flux.  All of the interns produced and presented oral final reports on the design and results of their experiments.  The final presentations were attended by SCIPP faculty and staff as well as parents.

An important feature of our summer program is the strong involvement of SCIPP faculty and researchers.  Students learned about a wide range of particle physics topics in a small-group seminar format.  The following UCSC/SCIPP faculty and staff worked with students in the small-group discussion sessions: David Smith (terrestrial gamma-ray Flashes), Jason Nielsen (Higgs boson discovery at the LHC), Ryan Reece (cosmic rays and special relativity), David Williams (ground-based gamma-ray astrophysics), Bill Atwood (gamma rays in astrophysics), Joel Primack (galactic simulations), Stefano Profumo (dark matter), Tesla Jeltema (history of the cosmos), and Sasha Sher (investigation of neural circuits with multielectrode recordings).  All of the scientists spent considerable time developing presentations that engaged the students.

As usual, the students and the program also benefited from other activities at UCSC.  They participated in a laboratory safety-training course and a tour of the Cosmology 3D visualization lab.

In addition to the standard QuarkNet assessments, we ask the students to use our own evaluation form, which we have been using since 2011.  We used last year’s responses and experiences to make adjustments to this year’s program, which was again very successful.  Because of positive experiences from past years, word of mouth of the program is spreading very effectively in area schools: our applicant pool this year was again very strong, with good representation from historically underrepresented groups.  All of the students were fully engaged, and they developed creative uses for the CRMD’s, solved problems as they arose, assessed experimental uncertainties, and completed their experiments and reports.  Their presentations were carefully prepared and well executed.  The students developed skills including how to think on their feet, critically assess their own results, and answer open-ended questions.  Most of this year’s interns declared that they were very interested in applying to universities to continue studies in physics or astrophysics.