While many high school students use their summer as a break from academic study, Bethany senior Jackson King spent six weeks in June and July working on a international physics project at the University of Notre Dame through Quarknet, a research-based program in which high school students, teachers, and physicists collaborate in cutting-edge projects in particle (high-energy) physics.
Jackson was accepted into Quarknet through the recommendation of Bethany physics teacher Calvin Swartzendruber (’89, F’08-), who himself has participated as a teacher in the summer program since 2003. Calvin works with a large (100 meter x 100 meter) cosmic ray detector at Notre Dame; he also has a smaller classroom detector at Bethany that he can use to help gather data and make available to researchers (pictured in photo with Jackson and Calvin).
Jackson, however, was on a team working at Notre Dame as part of a larger project of upgrading the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector in the Large Hadron Collider, which is located at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland. Jackson was the only high school student on his team, which included another local high school teacher, physicists from Notre Dame, and researchers from Fermilab, a United States Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.
Part of Jackson’ specific work was testing cable fibers for defects by measuring the amount of light transmitted. With a special interest in computer science—a possible focus of study in college—Jackson enjoyed feeding the data he collected into software, which allowed him to make graphs, analyze data, and interpret what it means. He also assembled optical coding units to be used in the detector. Becoming involved in hands-on research has helped him understand the CMS project—and how the collider works—more in depth.
In addition to research projects, all students participated in workshops. Jackson’s favorite was a crash course on participle physics. He says, “I enjoy learning new things. This experience has sparked an interest in my participating in further research projects.”
Jackson is the eighth Bethany student to participate in Quarknet since Calvin began teaching at Bethany in 2008, all participating the summer between their junior and seniors years: Kyle Miller (2010), Evan Grimes (2011), Himal King (2012), Corey Hostetler (2013), Neel Bhagat and Logan Swartzendruber (2014), and Nick Schrock (2015). With many of these pursuing study in a science-related field in college, Calvin notes that their participation in Quarknet “confirmed their interest in science and opened their eyes to additional possibilities.”