IPPOG involvement: forum for idea exchange

Students at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico participate in an IPPOG International Masterclass. Photo: Fabiola Vazquez

A few years ago, QuarkNet staff teacher Ken Cecire told colleagues at a meeting of the International Particle Physics Outreach Group about the U.S. QuarkNet program. Today, there is a similar program in Germany.

The ideas exchanged during IPPOG meetings are just one way in which the network promotes increased education and outreach in particle physics throughout the world. Its members and associate members (those who are part of a project, such as Cecire) represent the 21 member states of Ireland, Romania, South Africa, the United States, CERN and DESY laboratories, and five of the major experiments at the LHC.

While Fermilab isn’t an IPPOG member, Marge Bardeen, who heads the laboratory’s Education Office, is the U.S. representative selected by the American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields. She and Hans Peter Beck, Switzerland, co-chair IPPOG. They were elected by the members for a three-year term that began in 2013. Bardeen was a member for several years before becoming co-chair. In addition to her administrative role, Bardeen shares Fermilab’s education and outreach programs, ideas and initiatives and brings back ideas to implement here.

IPPOG’s members and associate members execute the organization’s outreach mission by growing and maintaining a resource database for physicists, teachers, students and the public. They also coordinate International Masterclasses, which give students from around the world the opportunity to talk with physicists and analyze real scientific data from the LHC experiments.

Cecire, an associate member of IPPOG, works through QuarkNet and the University of Notre Dame to coordinate the International Masterclasses with a colleague at TU Dresden. He also leads a team that has developed and maintains the CMS Masterclass measurement. There are also ATLAS, ALICE and LHCb Masterclass measurements. His work largely benefits the students who participate in the masterclasses, but the ideas he brings to IPPOG and those ideas he brings home are of great benefit to QuarkNet and the educators he works with, as well as to Fermilab and its outreach initiatives.

“Fermilab is one of the main centers where physicists moderate the masterclass events, so students are exposed to the lab and get to meet and talk with Fermilab physicists,” Cecire said.

IPPOG also provides an environment where members can strategize with their colleagues about how to solve issues relating to particle physics communication, education and outreach in their home countries or organizations.

“There are a lot of common ideas about what education and outreach can be in our research community,” Bardeen said. “It is important to encourage the next generation of scientists and share the value and excitement of our research with the general public.”