Shedding Light on Particle Physics

On Wednesday 4th February, twelve A Level students from the Royal Alexandra and Albert School attended a Particle Physics Master Class. Organised by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the master class took place in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the Harwell Oxford Science Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

The master classes, for students doing Physics A Level and taking modules in particle physics, aim to support the Physics curriculum by bringing the subject matter to life.

The master class consisted of lectures given by top particle physicists working at RAL and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. There were also practical workshop sessions, including a search for the Higgs Boson particle.

The highlight of the day was a tour of the Diamond Light Project. The Diamond Light Source is the UK’s synchrotron, a giant microscope that is 10,000 times more powerful than an average microscope. Using electrons, the synchrotron generates bright light, 10 billion times brighter than the Sun. This is then used by scientists across a number of fields, such as the medical sciences, forensics and archaeology.

Josef Willsher was one of the twelve Sixth Form students who took part in the master class. He said of the day, “It’s amazing that we were able to have a tour of the Diamond Light Project. It was very interesting and the best part of the day.”

James Gardiner, a Year 12 student on the trip, agreed, “The fact that we have a synchrotron in the UK which we were able to visit is amazing. With most synchrotrons in the US or Europe, we are lucky to have a facility that’s so close to us and that we’re able to learn more about.”

The day was topped off with a physics quiz. With almost one hundred students from schools across the country doing the quiz, two Royal Alexandra and Albert students, James and Josef, took first and second place, respectively.

Josef said of the quiz, “We had to answer questions on general Physics knowledge and about what we had seen during the day. It’s amazing how well we did – our School name was right on top.”

Science teacher Miss Noelle O’Connell, who accompanied the students to the master class, said, “I was delighted to take my Sixth Form physicists to the master class. The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the lectures and were a credit to the School. My proudest moment of the day, however, was James achieving first place and Josef joint second in a quiz of almost one hundred students. I want to say a big well done to the boys. They can consider themselves amongst the few who have a decent grasp of Particle Physics.”

10 February 2015

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