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UK teachers set to experience physics up close

A group of physics teachers from the UK will get to see cutting edge physics research in action when they visit CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, in Geneva this week.

The UK delegation of 14 will take part in the Physics Teachers @CERN event (15th -18th March) which attracts teaching staff from across Europe. The event, which takes place during National Science and Engineering Week, provides the teachers with the opportunity to network and share ideas with their national and European counterparts. They will be given an insight to contemporary particle physics at CERN, visit some of the experimental facilities and find out more about how spin offs from particle physics can impact on our every day lives.

Science and Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks, said, "Enthusiastic teachers lead to inspired students. And what better way of enthusing teachers to particle physics than to show them what is happening at the cutting edge of research? The Large Hadron Collider will advance the frontiers of science and improve our understanding of the origin of the Universe. Teachers have a fundamental role in conveying this - helping to encourage a new generation of engineers and scientists."

The event comes at a very exciting time at CERN as scientists prepare for the switch on of the particle smashing Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment later this year. Within the LHC, which is situated in a 27km underground tunnel, two beams of protons will be collided near to the speed of light. Four detector experiments will study the new particles created when the collisions take place. Two general purpose detectors, CMS and ATLAS will search for new physics whilst the other two will look at specific phenomena. LHCb will look at the difference between matter and antimatter and ALICE will study quark gluon plasma that existed in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

There is great anticipation and excitement building amongst the teachers that are taking part. Tony Harkin, a physics teacher from St Columb’s College, Derry in Northern Ireland, said, “I am hoping that my visit to CERN will help me deliver and teach physics in a new and more exciting way. It will also give me a great opportunity to speak to fellow professionals in the same field of study to discuss and explore new ideas and approaches to the teaching of physics within a 21st. century concept.”

Lizzie Weiser, who teaches physics at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge said, “I am tremendously excited about going to CERN and especially about visiting the ATLAS detector. I have a poster of it in my class-room and keep telling my 6th Form students that I am going to stand JUST THERE...!” She adds, “Whilst I am at CERN, I hope to increase my own knowledge and confidence in the subject so that I can transmit some of the enthusiasm of the subject, the sheer excitement of it, to my students. Having been where it all happens, and having seen if for myself, will make this much easier.”

Tony Thyer, a physics teacher from Greenwich Community College in London said, “I have enjoyed returning to teaching physics after a 20 year gap. The standard model seems to have grown a bit, and it would be interesting to see the LHC before it changes things. I cannot imagine any physics teacher that would not want to visit CERN.”

Over a 6 month period approximately 80 UK science teachers, sponsored by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) will have visited CERN and taken part in the various Teacher Support Programmes on offer, providing them with the opportunity to see at first hand the experimental installations, meet research physicists and refresh their knowledge of modern and particle physics thorough tailored programmes of lectures.

The UK is one of the 20 member states of CERN and the UK subscription to CERN is funded by PPARC. Scientists and engineers from 22 UK institutes are involved in the LHC. Further details about the LHC can be found on the following website:

Gill Ormrod – PPARC Press Office
Tel: 01793 442012. Mobile: 0781 8013509.
Mick Storr – Physics Teachers @ CERN co-ordinator
Tel: +44 22 7678484

Gill Ormrod | alfa
Further information:

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