Baylor Physics Class Takes "Field Trip" To High-Energy Research Lab
"Exciting" and "educational" are the words Dr. Jay Dittmann, a Baylor University assistant professor of physics, uses to describe a recent class field trip to the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Ill. "Educational" because students were able to tour one of the premier high-energy research labs in the country and "exciting" because two chance encounters let students meet two very notable people.
Dittmann took five students, including all of the undergraduate students in his nuclear and particle physics class, to the high-energy research lab for three days, April 6-9, so students could get a hands-on understanding about what they are learning in the classroom. The class is currently learning about elementary particle physics and the Fermilab boasts the world's highest-energy particle accelerator, the Tevatron, to study collisions of minute particles.
"The lab is on a 14-week shutdown while maintenance is performed, so I saw the opportunity to take the class and went for it," said Dittmann, who also conducts research at Fermilab. "The more we can actually show our students what physicists do and the practical skills involved, the better we prepare them for the future."
The class toured several sites at Fermilab including the area where antiprotons are accumulated and stored, the main control room and Dittmann's research area called the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF). Earlier this month, Dittmann's research group at CDF measured the rate of transition between matter and antimatter for a particular particle. The research provided experimental verification of several theories physicists have about the transition between matter and antimatter.
As the class was touring one of the sites, a woman approached them asking questions about the group. It turned out she was the wife of U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, who along with his family also was touring Fermilab at that time. When Bodman heard about the Baylor group, he came over to them, shook each student's hand and told them he was "delighted" to meet the physicists of tomorrow.
"The students were definitely excited about the chance encounter," Dittmann said.
But chance encounters with distinguished people did not end there. Not more than 15 minutes later, as the class was touring yet another site, the group ran into Leon Lederman, a 1988 Nobel Prize winner in physics for discovering the Muon Neutrino.
"I was just astonished that we met these two people on this trip," Dittmann said.
For more information, contact Jay Dittmann at (254) 710-2275