Teachers, Students Analyze Data From European Particle Accelerator

With the help of a new Web portal, high school teachers and students involved with two Notre Dame University programs will now have access to data from experiments conducted at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world.

The LHC is a 16.8-mile ring of magnets at the European Organization of Nuclear Research (also known as CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. Opened in 2008 with the first experiments completed in 2010, the LHC allows protons to smash together at close to the speed of light, creating head-on collisions that can give researchers clues about how nature behaves at a fundamental level.

The data collected by the experiments, however, is complicated, voluminous and complex, and researchers at CERN are just now able to make some of it available for analysis by the larger global research community, including teachers and students via QuarkNet and I2U2, the two programs at Notre Dame near South Bend, IN.

QuarkNet provides programs for high school science teachers to get first-hand information about physics research and to interact with university-level scientists. I2U2, short for Interactions in Understanding the Universe, similarly provides tools for high school teachers and students in the field of physics.

The two programs collaborated to create a masterclass and an e-lab to take advantage of the data available from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at CERN.

The CMS masterclass is a day-long event in which high school students and teacher learn the basics of particle physics and then use tools developed by QuarkNet to analyze a sample of CMS data. Afterwards, they are able to meet via video teleconferencing with CMS physicists to discuss their results.

The CMS e-class is an online self-directed study program that allows students and teachers to go into greater depth with the available data.

"These outreach programs help educate and inspire the next generation of scientists," said Notre Dame Physics Professor Mitchell Wayne. "They demonstrate the interesting and creative ways these data can be used by high school teachers and students."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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