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At UB, High School Student Performance Explains Particle Physics

With black lights and fun toys, students will recreate subatomic collisions

Release Date: August 19, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The world's most powerful particle physics accelerator may be located on the border of France and Switzerland, but you won't have to travel overseas to see how its scientists do their work.

High school students attending a University at Buffalo summer workshop will put on a fun, audience-friendly performance about collisions between subatomic particles at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 20) in 308 Fronczak Hall on the UB North Campus. Media are invited to attend.

The students are participating in the UB Physics and Arts Summer Institute, (PASI) a National Science Foundation-funded workshop, in which they are encouraged to use artistic expression to explain particle physics.

Students will give a short performance they developed, using special lighting effects and fun toys, to depict a collision between subatomic particles. Students will then work with audience members at computer stations to try and help them figure out which particles were produced in the collision.

"The audience members in this case are the experimentalists and they will do what particle physicists do at the LHC -- they have to work backward, to try and figure out what they saw, based on the 'tracks' that particles make in the instant before they decay," explains Doreen Wackeroth, UB associate professor of physics and director of PASI.

A prize will be awarded to the audience member who correctly identifies the particles.

Students who attended this summer's PASI are:

Geoffrey Fatin of Buffalo from Canisius High School; Alexandru Mihai of East Amherst from Williamsville East; Simon Nash of Buffalo from Hutch Tech; Anna Szczepanski of Lancaster from Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart; Ashley Wagstaff of Buffalo from Nichols School and Zhiyuan (Laura) Yu of East Aurora from Iroquois High School.

In addition to Wackeroth, PASI was staffed by Gary Nickard, UB clinical assistant professor of visual studies; Craig Uhrich, a physics teacher from Depew High School, Patty Wallace, a Williamsville artist and PASI alumni Derek Robins of Buffalo and Hally Stone of Williamsville.

Press arrangements: Ellen Goldbaum in the UB Office of University Communications at 645-4605 or Doreen Wackeroth, UB associate professor of physics, onsite.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum