COD Physics Students Collaborate in National Cosmic Ray Experiment

QuarkNet Project icon

By Mike McKissack

COD students Amr Elseweifi (Lombard), Nicholas Lindquist (Plainfield) and Kevin Nguyen (Carol Stream) joined students from Benet Academy High School, as well as high school and college students from across the U.S., to take part in the Cosmic Ray e-Lab.

Click here to see photos of COD students and faculty working with the cosmic ray detector.

Hosted by QuarkNet, a nonprofit collaboration between Fermilab National Laboratory and the University of Notre Dame, the Cosmic Ray e-Lab is a national collaborative project which measured high-energy cosmic rays during the recent solar eclipse. Funded by the National Science Foundation, QuarkNet is dedicated to developing the technological workforce in the U.S.

According to College of DuPage Physics Professor Tom Carter, the students are gaining experience in several areas.

“This project provides the students a great opportunity to work with Fermilab scientists and collaborate with other schools on a national scale,” Carter said. “They are working with real science data on a question we don’t know the answer to yet. They will also get experience presenting their results in a public forum.”

Early in 2017, COD students and Benet Academy students participated in Cosmic Ray Workshops, during which they constructed and calibrated a cosmic ray detector and learned how use it to make measurements and analyze data. During the recent solar eclipse, Benet Academy students measured locally the activity of particles known as muons while COD’s detector was used to take measurements in Washington, Mo., in the eclipse’s path of totality. Currently, the students are analyzing the data they collected, studying the timing and direction of the muons over a period of approximately two days leading up to and after the eclipse. The students then uploaded the data to a data portal that houses all of the data collected from labs, high schools and colleges nationwide.

Benet Academy teacher and part-time COD Physics faculty Jennifer Gimmell said she hopes the students’ participation in the project will inspire and motivate them to dig deeper into science in their studies and consider possible careers in the sciences.

“I hope that students really do see that Tom Carter and I, as well as other scientists and educators in the sciences, are still excited – like kids on Christmas morning,” she said. “We’re also sometimes baffled by stuff we don’t understand just like they are, and that’s part of the fun of the process of discovery.”

For information about COD’s Physics program, visit www.cod.edu/programs/physics or call (630) 942-2010.

(Pictured above from left to right: Jennifer Gimmell, Tom Carter, Amr Elseweifi and Kevin Nguyen/Photo by College of DuPage)

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