Deanna Csomo McCool | October 5, 2018
QuarkNet, a program founded at Notre Dame that brings university-level physics research opportunities to high school teachers and students across the country, has been granted funding through 2023 by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF has funded the program since its inception in 1998.
In addition to $3 million in direct NSF funding, QuarkNet will receive another $1.25 million over five years via NSF support of two collaborative particle detector experiment groups at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which operates the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle collider, in Geneva, Switzerland. The two experiments, ATLAS and CMS, benefit from work generated by teachers at the 52 QuarkNet centers across the United States.
“It’s greatly satisfying to receive this funding,” said Mitchell Wayne, a professor in the Department of Physics who has been lead principal investigator for the QuarkNet program since 2004. In addition to Wayne, the other co-principal investigators for the program include Marjorie Bardeen, of Fermilab, and Morris Swartz, of Johns Hopkins University. “QuarkNet is a wonderful program, and is very well known in the particle physics community. It’s done great things for teachers and students over the past two decades, and I believe that QuarkNet has played an important role in U.S. particle physics during that time.”
The program was the brainchild of Randal Ruchti, professor of physics, and three other co-founders, who wanted to resurrect interest and investment in the field in the 1990s after federal funding dried up for a planned particle collider in Texas. When that project, known as the Superconducting Super Collider, was abandoned, hundreds of physicists who had dedicated years of research to the project lost their jobs and left the field. Ruchti saw a need to rebuild public support for long-term physics research, as well as to develop a pool of future particle physicists.
Engaging high school teachers was his solution. With the support of Fermilab, the particle physics and accelerator laboratory located in Batavia, Illinois, and two other universities, the first four QuarkNet centers were launched in 1998 with short-term funding from the NSF. The agency began funding QuarkNet in five-year cycles the following year.
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