IB Physics Students Get First-Hand Look at Fermilab

IB diploma students in the physics class of Sara Karbeling spent a day touring the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

The Fermilab – more formally known as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory – is a place of complex research and deep thoughts. Afterall, according to their web site, they are trying to answer some pretty big questions: What is the universe made of? How does it work? Where did it come from?

It’s a place fittingly named for Nobel Prize winner and University of Chicago professor Enrico Fermi, known for his work on everything ranging from the development of quantum theory to nuclear and particle physics to statistical mechanics.

A group of International Baccalaureate diploma students from Des Moines had the chance to go behind the walls of the Fermilab for a first-hand look at some of the work currently underway.

IB diploma students in the physics class of Sara Karbeling spent a day touring the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Twenty IB physics students from Central Academy, along with their teacher Sara Karbeling, traveled to Batavia, IL to spend the day taking tours of the facility and listening to talks from Fermilab physicists. Ms. Karbeling worked at Fermilab in the Summer of 2011 as a TRAC intern – studying Initial Data Analysis for the Gamma + Jets research group.

On their visit, students got to see the lab’s main linear accelerator, a new superconducting radio-frequency accelerator, one of the Tevatron’s primary detectors D-Zero, and a muon-detector project named MicroBooNE.

Think field trips don’t have an impact on students? We’ll let the students speak for themselves:

  • Meeting with scientists who are so enthusiastic about their work was truly inspiring. These people helped enlighten for me that scientific discovery stems from curiosity. Without curiosity, science would not have the life-blood that has fueled its advancement for centuries. –Sarah
  • It was amazing that the physicists and operators would take time out of their day to teach us about what the explore at Fermilab and how they do it. While walking through the [Tevatron] accelerator and recently shut down D-Zero detector, it is only when I was right next to, or in the case of the detector, in, that could I truly appreciate how far the research has expanded our understanding of the universe and is still expanding our knowledge today. – Lander
  • Talking to these physicists was really awesome because you could tell that they love what they do. As someone who is interested in studying physics, being able to talk to people that have gone through the education and have been successful is really encouraging. – Daphne
  • My favorite part of our Fermilab tour was when we got to sit down and talk to Mark Weinberg, a Fermilab physicist, who illustrated and dictated the basics and not-so-basics of particle physics… I was especially interested what bosons are and how they transmit forces….Things like this make nature seem counterintuitive, but it is precisely this challenge to my reason that I enjoy! – Stephen
  • The coolest thing about the Fermilab trip for me was seeing how excited the physicists were about the projects they were working on…It’s really cool that [the physicists] have this theory that something exists and they try to do things to prove it. – Quinn
  • Hearing about [the physicists’] experiences in undergraduate and graduate school gave a good perspective on what becoming a physicist involves. – Ryan
  • I would say my favorite part of the Fermilab trip was going down into D-Zero. It’s nice to be able to see an important piece of technology in the development of modern physics, as well as to see the working place and people who were involved. – Patrick
  • I thought I has a relatively good understanding of all the different particles and their classifications, but the physicists who talked to us changed everything! I liked how passionate everybody there was. It was very inspiring. Seeing the Tevatron and climbing around the detector was awesome. It is so incredibly complex; photos can’t convey that. – Edel

The trip was part of the students’ unit on Particle Physics, one of the unique topics offered as part of the IB diploma program physics course.

For more information, visit the Fermilab web site.

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