Adams student become particle physicists for a day

Author: Kim Kilbride

As posted in the South Bend Tribune on March 22, 2015

Adams students become particle physicists for a day

Class culminates in opportunity to compare data with other students around world


By Kim Kilbride, South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Thirteen Adams High School physics students spent Saturday afternoon exploring the intricacies of particle physics.

Using rudimentary models and other hands-on activities, they learned about the composition of particles, how they’re held together and what happens when they collide.

Particle physics is important, Adams senior Brennon Koehler said, because it reveals how the world works.

“If I push that wall,” senior Grace Landry said, “what keeps me from falling through?”

The teens, who participated to satisfy a group project requirement, are all Dan Walsh’s students at Adams.

The Masterclass, as it’s called, was conducted at the University of Notre Dame QuarkNet Center and offered the students the opportunity to analyze data from CERNS’s Large Hadron Collider.

Walsh brought the other half of his students to the center earlier in the week for a more compressed program.

The culmination of Saturday’s event was a simulcast that included the Adams students, groups of high school students from around the world and physicists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Other area students, along with their teachers and Notre Dame scientists, have participated in Masterclasses, as well as summer programs at the QuarkNet Center at Notre Dame.

According to a press release from Notre Dame, the university is one of about 210 research institutes in 42 countries around the world that host the Masterclasses.

Particle physics is one of the most important emerging fields in science, the release says. The discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012 led to international public interest in understanding it.

This year, Notre Dame will host students in Masterclasses from Trinity School at Greenlawn, Riley High School, Winamac High School and Adams.

Walsh, from Adams, said the classes provide a unique opportunity for students to learn from a Notre Dame physics professor and to analyze real-life Higgs Boson data from CERN.