High-school students learn about nuclear physics at FRIB

31 July 2023

From 16-29 July, FRIB hosted Physicists Inspiring the Next Generation: Exploring the Nuclear Matter (PING) 2023. Twenty-four high-school students from 14 states were on hand to learn about the field of nuclear physics, with the potential to turn into a year-long research experience.

PING 2023 is a two-week summer program open to both pre-college students and undergraduate students (who serve as mentors). Launched in 2014 as a collaboration between the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in partnership with Associated Universities, Inc., PING is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

At PING 2023, students took part in a two-week research project at FRIB. During the first week, attendees reproduced the Rutherford Scattering Experiment—scattering particles due to electric interactions with the atoms of a foil. During the second week, they analyzed the data that was collected.

Over the course of the program, the students also:

  • conducted college-level research,
  • learned about majors,
  • identified education goals,
  • curated career plans,
  • created lasting networks,
  • improved time-management skills,
  • learned about agriculture,
  • gained professional presentation skills,
  • toured FRIB, and
  • visited areas of the MSU campus.

Participants will present their work at the National Society of Black Physicists and the American Physical Society Division of Nuclear Physics conferences.

During this year’s program, the attendees also met several representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, Michigan State University (MSU), and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), as the International Research Laboratory on Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics (IRL NPA) was established at FRIB on 18 July. Among the representatives were U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) Associate Director of Science for Nuclear Physics Tim Hallman, DOE-SC Outreach Program Director Michael Famiano, MSU Interim President Theresa Woodruff, and CNRS Director Reynald Pain.

“The goal of PING is for the students to gain new skills and learn awesome things about nuclear science—enough to pique their interest and inspire them to come back for more,” said Paul Gueye, associate professor of physics at FRIB and in MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “They are among the best and brightest of their generation, and we are looking forward to the discoveries they can make in the future.”