University of Rochester

University of Rochester Graduate Takes Rush-Henrietta Students to CERN in Switzerland to Unravel Secrets of the Universe

March 24, 2008

A team from Rush-Henrietta Senior High School is one of six teams selected nationally to participate in one of the "most exciting physics experiments of the decade." High school physics teacher Jeffrey Paradis, who earned his Master of Science degree in adolescence physics in 2004 from the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, will take three of his physics students to Geneva, Switzerland from April 2 to 7 for the upcoming Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Awareness event.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Paradis and his Rush-Henrietta studentsóMeghan Dorn, Nick Dubois, and LeighAnn Larkinówill participate in an exclusive, all-expenses-paid trip to the LHC, the world's largest particle physics laboratory, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN.

During their journey, Paradis and his students will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the LHC, an underground particle accelerator ring 17 miles in circumference, as well as two particle-detector experiments, known as ATLAS and CMS. The LHC, a product of 15 years of work, will be used by physicists to crack the code of physics and determine what our universe is made of. Once the LHC is running, particles taken from atoms will fly both ways around the loop near the speed of light. They will collide at different points around the LHC with enormous energy, creating a spray of new particles, perhaps some that have not been seen before now.

The week the students spend in Geneva will be the last opportunity for the public to access the accelerator facilities before they bring the LHC into operation. "Taking my students to CERN is something that I would never have dreamed of," said Paradis. "Having them participate in this moment of history, literally a few weeks before they flip the switch to the particle collider, will be the most rewarding part of this experience for me personally."

During their trip, Paradis' students will participate in a student journalism program, reporting on the ground at CERN to educate everyone back in the United States about the LHC. As student journalists, they will share their adventure and discoveries via the district Web site, blogs, videos, printed articles, podcasts, and the Monroe #1 Board of Cooperative Education Services [BOCES] Wiki. Upon their return to the states, they will report their findings at several community presentations, which will take place at their school district, at the University of Rochester during its "Particle Day" in mid-May, and at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

"Not only will this experience be life-changing for Jeff and his students with respect to developing their identities and interests in science, but many other high school physics students will also benefit from having the rare opportunity to experience this landmark event and this amazing technology (virtually) through the eyes and interpretation of fellow high school students and their teacher," said April Luehmann, assistant professor and director of the science teacher preparation program at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education. "Giving Jeff and his students this opportunity offers them an amazing chance to nurture a potentially universal community of high school learners where all participants will benefit from their contributions."

This learning opportunity also has ignited a unique partnership between Rush-Henrietta art and science students as they collaborate to find ways to visually represent the science involved to a more universal audience. "Most people do not understand the concepts that are involved with particle physics on a higher level because they do not have the basis to fully grasp it," explained Meghan Dorn, a senior at Rush-Henrietta Senior High School participating in the CERN Student Journalists program. "We're trying to use art to make the concepts more simple so that people can say 'oh I get it now,' instead of trying to explain it on more of a physical level."

Proposals for this opportunity abroad were made at the invitation of QuarkNet, a collection of universities working with high school teachers to promote understanding and interest in particle physics. Paradis participates in QuarkNet through the PARTICLE Program at the University of Rochester, one of 50 regional QuarkNet sites, and continues to advance his own learning, integrating components into his physics course and sharing his understanding and experiences with all Rush-Henrietta students who have demonstrated an interest in Physics.

"Jeff's commitment to giving his students authentic and engaging encounters with physics concepts is not only exceptional, but also inspiring to so many of his colleagues and peers," added Luehmann. "His passion for understanding and exploring physics is contagious in his classroom; his students can not help but respond with matching intrigue and energy. Certainly, QuarkNet could not have selected participants who would get more out of the experience than Jeff and his students, and it is without doubt that the rest of us will benefit greatly from their reports and interpretations of this landmark event."

QuarkNet was enlisted to recruit and select student and teacher teams to go to CERN as science journalists. Rush-Henrietta is one of only six teams selected to participate from more than 60 applications from schools across the nation. Teams were selected based on their demonstrated background in physics/science, video/artistic skills, ability to conduct interviews, and strong district-level support.

For more information and updates from the Rush-Henrietta team, please visit While in Switzerland, students will post podcasts and/or video selections to the district's Web site on its home page, the Senior High School page, and the teacher's classroom page at

About the Rush-Henrietta Central School District
The Rush-Henrietta Central School District ( is located in suburban Rochester, N.Y. More than 5,700 students attend the Upstate New York district, which has five elementary schools, two middle schools, a Ninth Grade Academy, and one Senior High School. The district is in close proximity to many institutions of higher education in the Rochester, N.Y. area, a geographic blessing that affords students learning opportunities that extend well beyond the classroom. The trip to Switzerland for LHC Awareness, supported by QuarkNet through the University of Rochester and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is one such opportunity.