2014 Annual Report - SMU

The SMU Particle Physics group sponsored its annual QuarkNet activities this summer for local high school physics teachers and students. The workshop, an event organized annually since 2001, was held the week of August 4-8, and there were summer-long research projects. This year there were 19 teachers from the Dallas area public and private schools at the workshop. Two teachers and eight students performed summer research in SMU labs. A feature of the workshop this year was a joint day, August 8, at SMU with ten more physics teachers and 30 students from the UT Southwestern STARS program.

During the workshop teachers heard talks on the latest research from SMU professors Tom Coan (NOvA/neutrinos) and Steve Sekula (Standard Model and Beyond). They viewed the new documentary Particle Fever and had a discussion with Prof. Fred Olness about the background to its making. After a discussion about polarization and vacuum condensates, teachers also watched a seminar on YouTube given by the BICEP-2 collaboration on the recent results concerning gravity waves in the early universe. This tied in with the group's trip to LIGO two years ago. During the afternoons the teachers constructed several make-and-take demos that they had seen in the classrooms during their trip to LIGO. Teachers Julia Porowski, Tammy McDaniel, Tim Graves, Nathan Brown, Bruce Boehne and Evelyn Restivo each led a presentation or activity they had brought. Teacher Kevin Cieszkowski presented on the CDMS-Dark Matter research work he did with SMU Prof. Jodi Cooley during the summer. He designed and constructed from a pressure cooker a simple storage container to prevent radioactive contamination.

Leon DeOliveira and four of his high school students spent the summer doing research in the SMU Physics Department's Opto-Electronics lab, working with physicists Datao Gon and Di Guo on the optical data link updates for the ATLAS LAr Calorimeter. Working with SMU graduate student (and former QuarkNet teacher) Farly Ferrante, Ken Taylor and four of his high school students analyzed virgin data from SMU's ROTSE telescope, located at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. The students discovered five new variable stars and were featured in a Dallas Morning News article. The summer research students and teachers participated in weekly departmental lunch seminars and presented their findings at the QuarkNet workshop.

Te QuarkNet program is organized by Dr. Simon Dalley and funded by the National Science Foundation. Other faculty mentors include Fred Olness, Rick Guarino, and Randy Scalise.