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August 14
2000

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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Physics program teaches the teachers

While most students have thrown off the mantle of learning for the summer, a dozen local high school teachers are coming to the University to become students themselves. For three weeks they'll be learning about smashing atoms, teasing out the secrets of quarks, and even building their own cosmic ray detectors, all so they can excite their own students about physics in the fall.

Kevin McFarland, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Arie Bodek, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, are heading up the program, called Quarknet. "These teachers are coming here because they want to learn about the latest in physics and take that knowledge back to their students," McFarland said.

Two local teachers--Susen Clark of Benjamin Franklin High School in Rochester and Paul Pavone of Pittsford Sutherland High School, both of whom attended last year's Quarknet program in Chicago--have helped design and will help teach this year's course.

The 12 teachers will each build their own particle physics detector from raw materials, learning about the physics involved as they analyze the cosmic ray information they collect. Perhaps the most challenging part for the teachers will be learning to draw conclusions from the reams of data their detectors will generate, and deciding what sorts of experiments will be most interesting to their students. Once the course is completed, the detectors become part of an equipment lending library in the physics and astronomy department, so any teacher can borrow a detector for weeks at a time and demonstrate it to his or her class.



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