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Engaging students in physics through art

For some Western New York teenagers, the journey to a career in physics is passing through the University at Buffalo’s Physics & Arts Summer Institute where they explore the possibilities of science merging with art and cultivate a passion for science.

“For me the most important part is to get [students] interested in science and not just interested but to be passionate about it. These are the kinds of experiences I just love.” Doreen Wackeroth,
Associate Professor, Department of Physics, College of Arts and Sciences

Doreen Wackeroth, associate professor of physics, used funding from the education and outreach portion of a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award to launch the summer program in 2006. She partnered with colleagues in the departments of Visual Arts and Media Study and invited area high school science teachers and local artists to participate in this project.

Participants develop artistic and interactive displays designed to demonstrate and communicate to the public the principles of physics. In doing so, they also develop a deeper understanding of the most basic questions in science. Questions like “What are the smallest building blocks of matter?” and “Where did we come from?”

Projects have included an interactive magnetic heat engine and an exhibit featuring a spark chamber, an instrument that makes cosmic rays visible to the naked eye. The most recent institute’s students also took a one-day field trip to Fermilab's Particle Accelerator near Chicago. The 2009 installment of the institute will begin in late July 2009.


2009 Physics & Arts Summer Institute
Apply for this year’s institute; see the work of previous institutes.

“At UB, Teens Create Art to Explain Particle Physics”
High school students create interactive displays, Web page to explain particle physics.

College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Physics

Department of Visual Studies

Department of Media Study