SMU QuarkNet Center Annual Report

Southern Methodist University Summer 2017 – The SMU Particle Physics group sponsored its annual QuarkNet activities this summer for local high school physics teachers and students. The QuarkNet teachers’ workshop was held July 31 - Aug 4. In addition, there were 6-week-long summer research projects for high school students. This year there were 16 teachers from Dallas area public and private schools at the workshop while 2 teachers and 16 students performed summer research in SMU labs.


During the workshop, teachers heard a talk from Prof. Thomas Coan on the neutrino experiments NOvA and DUNE. QuarkNet teacher Michael Haskins gave an introduction to the Standard Model and reported on his Fermilab Data Camp experience, as did Kevin Cieszkowski for his trip to ISE Greece. Teachers Guven Yilmaz, Billy Wells, and Janee Hall each presented a physics topic of interest to them highlighting the resources available. John Thompson led a make-and-take lab to construct and perform measurements on resistivity of various gauges of wire. Simon Dalley had the teachers evaluate two pedagogical activities, firstly a “lab” to calculate the dark matter in a galaxy, and then to undertake some co-operative problem solving using kinematics and Newton’s laws. The teachers made several trips to other locations: a tour of SMU’s data center, a tour of Raytheon’s facility in McKinney, and a visit to UT Southwestern Medical Center to team up with their STARS outreach program in designing and testing air-launched rockets. 


John Thompson and 8 high school students joined Dr. Ye’s SMU lab for the summer. They investigated and wrote a paper on a precise parallel-plate capacitor invented by Prof. Ye for pedagogy, extending work done last summer to successfully include measurements of dielectric permittivity. They also constructed a working wire chamber with Dr. Liu, wrote code to assess beam uniformity, and write code for controlling a robotic arm used to test transistor chips. Working with Farley Ferrante, Guven Yilmaz and 8 high school students analyzed data from SMU’s ROTSE telescope located at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. As last year, the students discovered several new variable stars that were accepted into the Variable Star Index. The summer research students and teachers participated in weekly departmental lunch seminars and the students presented their findings in a poster session attended by physics department members, and by students and teachers from the Texas Governor’s Science & Technology Champions Academy.


The QuarkNet program is organized by Dr. Simon Dalley and funded by the National Science Foundation.