‘Distinguished Trailblazers in the Sciences’ competition winners recognized at virtual ceremony

FRIB, Michigan State University (MSU), and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) honored the winners of the “Distinguished Trailblazers in the Sciences” competition at a virtual ceremony on 22 January. For the competition, pre-college students created video presentations about scientists and engineers from minority and marginalized ethnic/racial groups who have excelled or contributed to the fields of nuclear science, accelerator science, and accelerator engineering.

There were two categories based on grade level:

  • Category one: Grades 5-8
  • Category two: Grades 9-12

Students created an original artistic design expression, personalized poem, musical performance (song/rap), video, or poster to highlight their selected “Distinguished Trailblazer in the Sciences.” They then created an original video in which they presented their submission. The winners and their winning videos are:

Category one: Grades 5-8

Category two: Grades 9-12

The competition was developed under the Student Training and Engagement Program for Undergraduates in Physics (STEP-UP). STEP-UP is a national organization of physics teachers, researchers, and professional societies that designs high-school physics lessons to inspire young people to pursue physics in college. It is a joint initiative between FRIB and Jefferson Lab. STEP-UP Coordinators Chandra Oaks-Garcia and Mornetka Gueye, and Artemis Spyrou, professor of physics at FRIB and in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Physics and Astronomy, created and organized “Trailblazers.”

“It is paramount to continuously expose all students very early in their education to increase representation in STEM fields,” said Paul Gueye, an associate professor of nuclear physics at FRIB and in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Physics and Astronomy, and founder of the STEP-UP program. “We are all inspired by the talents of all of these bright students and looking forward to their impacts in basic and applied nuclear science, and beyond.”

At the ceremony, the students were recognized for their work by representatives of FRIB and Jefferson Lab. Each winner was able to present their video and offer their thoughts on the most exciting part of making their presentation. One award winner noted that prior to her research, she did not know who her scientist was, and that was a fun experience conducting her research. In addition, the winners heard from practicing physicists, each of whom shared their career journey and encouraged the students to further explore their scientific interest. 

FRIB Laboratory Director Thomas Glasmacher and Jefferson Lab Associate Director for Experimental Nuclear Physics Cynthia Keppel also attended the ceremony. Both commended the students, stating they were impressed by the students’ presentations.

“We train a third of the nation’s nuclear scientists at FRIB and Michigan State University, and aim for our graduate student body to reflect the nation’s vibrant makeup of backgrounds and cultures,” Glasmacher said. “All of our students started with excitement about science at school. I loved seeing the videos and the passion and excitement that went into each Trailblazer project.”

Michigan State University operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics.