Ottawa High School science teacher Jim Deane will spend three weeks this summer in Switzerland at the International CERN teacher program.
Deane will be one of five physics teachers from the United States to attend the program.
Deane said his involvement in another program led him to apply for the CERN program. CERN stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, which is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers.
“I’ve been involved in a program called Quark Net for the past eight years now,” he said. “It is a program run out of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. I got involved when I met a teacher at a workshop and we were talking about things we would do with our classes and he mentioned his particle detector and I thought that was about the coolest thing on the planet. I told him I would be interested in building one and he said to contact Quark Net and they could get me one.”
After contacting them, Deane got involved in their workshops and summer programs and participated in one-week intensive particle physics camps in 2013 and 2015.
“As soon as I found out there was a CERN camp in 2013, I applied and didn’t get in,” he said. “I applied again in 2014 and didn’t get in. He did not apply in 2015 and 2016 because of his summer work at Kansas University in the Physics department. This year I applied again and about a week after I applied I found out I got in.”
Each year five teachers are selected to participate in the program. Quark Net facilitates the application and selection process. The University of Michigan is the organization that runs the program as a summer program for teachers.
The three-week residential program goals are:
• To support teachers’ professional development in the field of particle physics;
• To promote the teaching of particle physics in high schools;
• To facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience among teachers of different nationalities;
• And to stimulate activities related to the popularization of physics within and beyond the classroom and to help CERN establish closer links with schools all around the world.
Deane said attending a program like this helps connect his students to the world of physics.
“Specifically for my students, what I will bring back is advanced knowledge of particle physics which I do bring into my classroom and more knowledge about the activities other people use and run through,” he said. “I already do a number of things that I have learned through Quark Net. I don’t know exactly what will be over there but I assume it will give me a number of different tools to work with.
“One of reasons that it is important is that particle physics is one of several major frontier areas in physics right now, but it has applications all the way down to the local hospital,” he said. “When you talk about cancer treatments, you have particle accelerators that are being used to do proton therapy. When you go to manufacturing facilities, they use particle accelerators to sterilize things, and it can be used to make an ion beam that welds plastic.
“Even though the ones like I will be using at CERN are research accelerators, the technology is everywhere, By knowing about it and being able to tell my students about it, they will understand that this cutting edge physics isn’t as far away as they think. It’s as close as potentially the hospital.”
In addition to that, Deane said the interaction he will have with other physics teachers is one of the best parts of the program.
The program began in 1998 at CERN and is held during the month of July. It is open to high school science teachers from around the world who would like to update their knowledge of particle physics, learn more about educational resources available, and collaborate with fellow science teachers of different nationalities.
Teachers applied for the program beginning in November 2016.
Deane has been with the Ottawa school district for 12 years and teaches physics and physical science. He has been a fan of the work CERN has been doing for many years. He recalled staying up most of the night on July 4, 2012, to watch what turned out to be the discovery of the Higgs boson, one of the most important discoveries ever made in physics. While watching that event, he thought getting to tour the facility would be a great thing.
“I just thought how neat it would be to go and even take a tour someday,” he said. “So knowing that I will get to spend three weeks learning about particle physics there is just outstanding. I am excited about getting to go and tour. On a personal level, my excitement and enthusiasm for science is way high. Just knowing that I will be getting to go and see it and experience it and get to ask questions is about the coolest thing ever.”