13/06/2012 - Trieste
With each of its educational outreach efforts, ICTP reinforces the adage "Scientific thought is the common heritage of mankind." One such outreach activity that was proposed and conducted by a group of ICTP researchers who are part of CERN's ATLAS group, including ICTP postdoctoral fellows Kate Shaw and Muhammad Alhroob, saw science from Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle physics being introduced to students pursuing physics degrees in Palestine.
The activity, "Physics Without Frontiers", was conceived with the aim of influencing and motivating students to consider a career in scientific research. Shaw and Alhroob, along with Ahmed Bassalat (PhD student from the University of Paris Sud XI, France) Sharif Githan (PhD student at LIP laboratory at the University of Coimbra, Portugal) guided students through master classes with interactive lectures on particle physics and engaged them in hands-on exercises using real LHC data. They also presented a talk on careers in physics, highlighting details about the different fields of research and the opportunities and funding available.
In addition, the students witnessed the day-to-day workings of CERN physicists. "We had a live link with the ATLAS control room where the students received a virtual tour and had the opportunity to ask physicists questions," says Shaw.
Shaw says that (she and her colleagues) chose to hold the master classes in Palestine because the country has started investing heavily in education in recent years. From the feedback gathered about the activity, it was clear that the participants felt such activities were vital to foster scientific education in Palestine. "This master class provided excellent support for understanding particle and accelerators physics," one feedback stated. "Our students, who live under heavy restriction on movement, were able to interact with researchers and scientists from prestigious European research centres such as CERN and ICTP and learn from their expertise."
"We all really enjoyed this project," says Shaw "We got to know the students, and enjoyed discussing ideas with them. A majority showed interest in carrying on their education in physics," she adds.
Shaw reports that the universities were very welcoming and she was impressed by the effort put in by the local organisers. "We would love to continue the Physics without Frontiers programme and visit other countries to reach as wide an audience as possible," says Shaw, "We want every student who enjoys physics to know what opportunities are available to them."
The master classes in Palestine were held at An-Najah National University, Nablus; Birzeit University, Birzeit; Al-Quds University, Abu Dis. The project was funded by ICTP with additional sponsorship from the Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics, Portugal, and CERN, and was supervised by Bobby Acharya, scientist at ICTP's High, Energy, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics section.