The Center for Neutrino Physics at Virginia Tech, the only center of its kind in the world, recently became home to the Virginia Tech QuarkNET Center. 

Funded by the National Science Foundation, QuarkNET is an outreach program run by the University of Notre Dame and funded by the National Science Foundation aimed at helping high school teachers gain a deeper understanding of particle physics through inquiry-based instruction.

“Creating a QuarkNET Center here has been one of my goals through my NSF CAREER Award,” said Camillo Mariani, assistant professor of physics. “We will begin full operation in the summer and we’ll spend the first two years identifying high school teachers who are interested in doing research with members of the Center for Neutrino Physics and attending a camp at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab National Laboratory in Chicago where they will learn the excitement of building a particle detector and data analysis.”

Teachers will take their research experience, and their detectors, to high school classrooms where they can integrate the equipment into lessons using real-world data. Members of the Center for Neutrino Physics will continue to work with teachers and promote physics research in the schools with a goal to leave students with an understanding that science and physics, while not easy, can be done by anyone.

“It’s also fun,” said Mariani, “I think teachers and students will enjoy working on these projects.”

Virginia Tech undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows will also be involved with the outreach project. QuarkNET will complement current efforts such as the Virginia-North Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation and PhysTEC, an effort promoted by John Simonetti, professor of physics, associate chair of the physics department, and director of the astronomy outreach program.

“This is another step in increasing the quality and number of underrepresented students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics baccalaureate degree programs,” Mariani said.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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