Physics program provides local high school students with international masterclass

Mar 25, 2021 | Engineering and Science, Faculty/Staff, General News, Students

Louisiana Tech University’s Physics program recently concluded an International Masterclass in Hands-On Particle Physics for local high school students. Louisiana Tech Physics professor and director of Chemistry and Physics Dr. Lee Sawyer and Physics PhD student Zahra Farazpay worked with West Monroe High School physics teacher, Laura Duke, to provide a guided particle physics project to 10 of her students.

Lee Sawyer and Laura Duke

Dr. Lee Sawyer and West Monroe physics teacher Laura Duke review a lesson for her class.

Through the program, Gibson Buxton (junior), Logan Coker (junior), Madeline Hawthorne (senior), Nathan Mitchell (senior), Eli Norman (junior), Mason Parker (junior), Sarah Roberts (junior), Aidan Warner (senior), Bryce Waters (junior), and Blake Woody (junior) completed hands-on research, compiled data, and presented the data to researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Sawyer and Farazpay traveled to West Monroe High School to deliver early content to Duke and her students. For the final step in the project, Sawyer and Farazpay worked with the team at Louisiana Tech’s physics facilities, where the team made its presentation to CERN. Four teams from Europe shared their findings during the same teleconference, and the West Monroe/Louisiana Tech team had the opportunity to observe presentations from their sponsor universities: Genoa University, University of Salento, and University of Milano in Italy, and the University of Zilina in Slovakia.

“It is exciting as a teacher to watch students become truly engaged in what you love to teach,” Duke said. “Several students told me they were thankful for the experience. Comments like that make spending the extra time at the school worth it. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to expose some of my students to particle physics in such a unique and hands-on way.”

“I enrolled in the masterclass to satisfy a need to learn about as much as I can,” Mitchell added. “The chance to learn about the many facets of the particle world was irresistible already, but the added bonus of getting to work with real data truly cemented the concept of what we were learning.”

Sawyer and students

Dr. Lee Sawyer works with West Monroe High physics students.

The masterclass was sponsored by Technische Universität Dresden, the Quarknet Program at Notre Dame, and CERN’s International Particle Physics Outreach Group. Louisiana Tech was one of only 35 institutions within the U.S. and the only university in the state to participate in the masterclass.

The Louisiana Tech Physics program is committed to creating and delivering educational opportunities for young scholars throughout north Louisiana and to building a community of students with an understanding of physics and the potential to become world class researchers.

“We started this program last year with West Monroe High School,” Sawyer said, “but had to cancel the actual meeting with CERN when the COVID pandemic hit. We hope in the coming years to expand this program to other area high schools and to add other international masterclasses, particularly in medical physics.”