Physicists Inspiring the Next Generation (PING): Exploring the Nuclear Matter 2020
Although PING administrators were grateful to still be able to host PING, the shift from in person education to Zoom education brought its own unique challenges. The format of PING had to be drastically edited: while the program would typically be hosted in the summer due the PING 2020 participants were not able to come to campus as originally planned and the hours and meeting times were changed and reduced to accommodate the Fall school schedules.
The program included participation in the last experiment of the MoNA Collaboration conducted at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory/Facility for Rare Isotope Beams as well as individualized interest-based research projects for each participant ranging from the fundamental study of unbound nuclei to developing codes for field mapping, experimental setup and the nuclear chart, as well as applications to cancer therapy. The participants then presented their research at two professional Fall 2020 remote conferences: the American Physical Society Division of Nuclear Physics meeting (October 29-November 1, 2020) and the National Society of Black Physicists annual meeting (November 5-8, 2020. The program also includes a follow-up eight month remote research component with the MoNA Collaboration.
The program is not only geared to teach participants about STEM or physics. PING administrators and mentors strive to provide an entire experience for the PING participants. The goal is to well-round participants in preparation for their futures. PING administrators to find it equally important to focus participon STEM, college preparedness, and agricultural education.
Agriculture can sometimes be a subject that is left unexplored or untaught to students on the STEM track. The very first program, PING 2014, is what made PING administrators realize the importance on educating on the subject of agriculture. It began when students were on a bus, headed to an offsite exploration. Cows in a field were one of the largest excitements of the day. It may seem to be a small thing, however, not all students have even seen a live cow before. PING strives to help bridge the gap between student and animal, city and country, STEM and farm. Head over to the agricultural page to see more.
For the research component of PING, each high school participant was paired with an undergraduate mentor. The mentors and mentees typically met via Zoom once per day or every other day to keep in touch on specific interest-related research. PING typically met as a whole group 2-4 times a week in the evening around 7:30 pm. Within these meetings, participants were able to build a strong network involving the other participants, undergraduate mentors, administrators and a slew of special guests. The schedule is listed in Appendix A of this document.
The program was originally designed for the participants of PING to extensively interact with one another all day long. They would do research together, eat together, room together and spend free time together. To PING administrators, it was a bit daunting to understand how well this networking would translate into an online format. That is when research groups for the MoNA Collaboration and fun activities were introduced. The participants were involved in two research activities:
The first research activity consisted of the last experiment of the MoNA Collaboration at NSCL that was conducted at the beginning of the PING program. The experiment studied 13Be and its isomere. The PING students were on shift for 4 consecutive days in the evening (08:00pm-10:00pm). During that time, they analyzed cosmic data from the MoNA/LISA neutron detector array and the tming of the first beam hitting the detector. This component helped them learn about real-world nuclear physics, how to effectively communicate with research partners, see scientists discussing and interpreting live data as they were collected and even ways to provide constructive criticism to their peers
The second research activity consisted of individual projects ranging from the understanding of the nuclear matter to applications of nuclear science (e.g., computer science and health). The projects were performed over four weeks with a schedule adapted to the participants class schedules, following a similar approach when involving undergraduate and graduate students into college level research.