Tentative Teacher Research Plans

Summer, 2003 Julia Thompson

Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Pittsburgh

Adj. Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL)

Notes in preparation for Summer, 2003

This is a note for high school teachers, to alert them to a possible multi-summer opportunity working on research in elementary particle physics, and ways to bring that research back to the classroom.

The anticipated opportunity is contingent upon recruitment of appropriate interested teachers and final funding approval. It would be through the program Quarknet and is described in more detail below. Stipends are available (approximately $4400 for 8 weeks this summer, although some of the time can be arranged before or after the summer, to give more flexibility during the actual summer). More information about my other activities with undergraduates and high school teachers can be found on: the Pitt REU web site and our educational outreach summary site.

More detail on the two experiments proposed can be found on:

  • 1. MINOS and

  • 2. the CosRayHS Project . A list of projects for the CosRayHS project is also available.

  • Any interested teachers should contact me for more details or apply to the RET (Research Experiences for Teachers) part of our REUPFOM program.

    The Quarknet activities are described in more detail below.

    --------------------- Outreach Narrative -------------------

    1) In 2003, Thompson will be be joining the University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL) as an Adjunct Prof. of Physics. She has worked actively with high school teachers in southern Illinois, helping them to develop hands-on activities of interest, since approximately 1997, when she worked over the course of a year with the physics teacher at an E. St. Louis high school. Projects developed have ranged from levers to basic electricity to optics to more advanced oscilloscope and sound labs. She also, on request, helps teachers inventory and refurbish their hands-on equipment. In the past year she contacted approximately 400 students through these activities, including about 200 through the E. St. Louis Upward Bound program. In the coming year she will work with these Upward Bound students and advise them in their preparation of science fair projects.

    2) In 2000-2001, Thompson and Kraus worked with Ms. Julie Breden of Southwest High School, introducing cosmic ray detectors into her classroom. Through about 4 visits with students present, and additional visits to set up equipment, the students built and tested scintillator paddles, including checking the ambient cosmic ray flux with them. Ms. Breden presented this work at the spring AAPT meeting at Elsah, Illinois, and continued work with Thompson and Kraus in the summer through the REU program described below.

    --------------------- How Teachers Might Use The Experience in the Classroom ------------------

    1) Teachers choosing to continue work on the cosmic ray detector project would naturally continue into the classroom, with a basic detector, for which our group currently has enough pieces to build at least two. Our idea is that classes would collect information and share it, and gradually a larger network will be developed. Individual teachers may also have projects to improve data acquisition, gps time stamping, Monte Carlo modelling of cosmic ray showers, data analysis, or even development of alternate detectors. While the shared information is expected to be of scientific interest, a prime goal of our activity is to provide an environment in which students and teachers themselves can develop and influence the future course of this project.

    2) Teachers choosing to continue work on some aspect of MINOS would be most likely to contribute through some form of data analysis, during the year, but could continue work with hardware development and testing during the summer. The enhanced experimental skills should transfer back to the classroom in an indirect fashion in general stronger orientation and ease with hands-on activities.

    ------------------- The mentor's role in the transfer --------

    Julia Thompson and David Kraus will assist teachers interested in transferring cosmic ray detector activities back to the classroom. We have already inititated some activities along these lines with two teachers in southern Illinois and are prepared to support teachers in inserting either activities or information from the cosmic ray project into the classroom.

    2) In addition to Thompson, Donna Naples and Jeffrey McDonald will assist teachers interested in transferring MINOS activities back into the classroom, primarily through providing information about the experiment or identifying appropriate analysis activities. Since southern Illinois is reasonably conveniently located with respect to Fermilab (within an easy day's drive, and conveniently accessible also by train and by inexpensive air fares on Southwest) both Naples and McDonald, who are frequently at FNAL, can continue contacts with the teachers.

    **************** Nature of Research: ***************

    The teachers would be associated with the MINOS experiment at Fermilab. This is a long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, designed to give more information about oscillation of neutrinos from one species to another, and about neutrino masses. The University of Pittsburgh group, under the leadership of Prof. Donna Naples, has designed chambers for use in beam monitoring, and is presently doing engineering design, and expects either to build the chambers at Pittsburgh, or to supervise their construction at Fermilab. The teachers will learn about this experiment, its physics objectives, and the specific hardware which is the area of responsiblity of the University of Pittsburgh.

    The second aspect of the research is CosRayHS, a project to link together simple cosmic ray detectors in associated high schools. By comparing, on a very short time scale (10's of nanoseconds), the time of arrival of different signals, one can search for high energy initial cosmic rays, indicated by widely separated charged particles arriving simultaneously over a large area. The direction of any shower can also be found from these times. Such investigations are of interest because of anomalies seen at the highest cosmic ray energies, and because of some indications of time correlations over extended areas, larger in distance than expected from cosmic rays with energies below the maximum seen.

    --------------- Research Narrative-------------

    The underlying idea of this proposal is to strengthen the physics skills and knowledge of teachers in the general southern Illinois region served by University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL), where Thompson is an adjunct professor.

    No other major high energy groups work in this area, which includes many rural districts as well as bordering on St. Louis and E. St. Louis.

    We propose a basic 5-week cycle for the lead teachers which would consist of: 1 week at Fermilab (Quarknet lead teacher institute), 2 weeks at Pittsburg or the mine at Soudan or at FNAL working on some aspect of installation of the MINOS experiment, and 2 weeks at UMSL becoming oriented to the cosmic ray detector work. The additional three weeks of the QUARKNET 8-week period would be negotiated with individual teachers, and could include more time working on MINOS or more time on the cosmic ray detector project. We intend to focus our recruitment efforts on the southern Illinois region where Thompson is now working actively. Our experience is that these teachers are interested in elementary particle physics, but that projects which allow them to contribute without leaving home (such as the cosmic ray detector project) are attractive. The lead teachers will be assisted in planning the second year workshop on either further aspects of MINOS or on the cosmic ray project, as they decide best. In summer 2003, for the CosRayHS project, we aim to commission a) work with the teachers to make a simple cosmic ray telescope for work in their classroom (which will also orient them to the basic skills required for this work) and b) set up two sets of scintillation detectors and take data with the two stations simultaneously, to test the GPS (or other) time stamping. Jeffrey McDonald and Donna Naples will work with the teachers on the MINOS component and Julia Thompson and David Kraus will work with them on the cosmic ray detector component.

    Last modified Dec. 18, 2002, by J.A. Thompson