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TRIUMF | Vancouver, BC | Canada

View Blog | Read Bio

Best field trip ever

— By Peter Vogel, ICT/Physics teacher at the Notre Dame Regional Secondary School in Vancouver BC

I write this from a desk inside one of the older buildings that make up CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, outside Geneva, Switzerland. Save for the wireless access I have here, the room looks  as if no one has been in here since the 1960s. Two ancient projectors stand at the back of the room, still aimed at the board on which they last projected.

Yet mere metres from my seat, which surely a Nobel laureate or two has graced, is the most complex physics experiment the world has ever seen. Just across the road and around a hundred metres below the surface of this gentle farming countryside, beats the heart of the Large Hadron Collider.

I am fortunate to have been chosen to represent Canada here at CERN for the HST2011 summer high school physics teachers program, a experience quite unlike any I’ve had in more than thirty years of  teaching.

The author, centre, with HST2011 attendees from Australia, the US, Brazil and Slovakia, in front of the faceplate for CERN's Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider beam, 100 m below the French countryside near Cessy.

Despite Canada’s obvious presence here at CERN, it seems that I am the first physics teacher to represent the country at this program. To ensure that such representation continues in subsequent years, I am documenting much of what I experience through Twitter (the words “I am  jealous of you” have come up in response), through a blog and through email postings to the BC Association of Physics Teachers mailing list.

Earlier this week I had the distinct pleasure of meeting William Trischuk of the University of Toronto and a representative of the Institute of Particle Physics (one of the agencies that has made possible my trip to CERN). As it turns out, he was here for a regular shift on the ATLAS experiment on the LHC.

It’s been just a week here at HST2011, a blur of acronyms, lectures, experiments, and visits to the most complex equipment I’ve ever seen. It is indeed an amazing experience to be here, and to be able to share  it with colleagues from more than twenty nations makes it all the more enriching.

— The CAP high school/CEGEP teacher award is co-sponsored by APEGBC, the Canadian Association of Physicists, TRIUMF, Merlan Scientific, Perimeter Institute, Nelson Education, and Vernier. The British Columbia and Yukon award is further sponsored by BC Innovation Council. Travel costs were sponsored by the Institute of Particle Physics, as well as TRIUMF & the Perimeter Institute.

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