Young Scholars

phYSics Young Scholars program welcomes 10 high school students from the Urbana-Champaign area to explore exciting careers in scientific research. The summer program will help these students better understand how we ask and answer questions in science. They will be embedded in research laboratories in the Physics, Mechanical Sciences and Engineering departments where they will shadow undergraduate or graduate student researchers during a six week program. The Young Scholars will also make measurements and analyze results as part of the work in their research group.  The capstone activity will be a poster session at the end of the program where the high school students will present their work to their peers, research mentors, teachers and parents.  The student researchers will also act as mentors for the high school students and will be trained in a mentoring workshop held prior to the main program. Special programming will be provided for the high school students, including discussions of college applications and financial aid, college life, poster preparation, as well as a range of research talks by the mentors.

Program Goals

  • Introduce students to scientific research and promote career opportunities in the field
  • Help students gain knowledge in a variety of science applications
  • Help students gain an understanding of science and its local and global impact

    Student Benefits

  • Work in a cutting-edge research laboratory
  • Build relationships with college and other high school students
  • Builds resume
  • Get a taste of college life

    Program Dates

    June 19th through July 28th, 2017

    Eligibility Requirements

  • Rising high school junior or senior at time of application
  • Underrepresented group
  • 500 word essay

    Essay Requirements
  • 500 words due June 1st
  • Include a brief introduction about yourself & background
  • Discuss science interests & experiences


    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 1
    Development of a Radiation Hard Zero Degree Calorimeter (ZDC) for the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN

    The Zero Degree Calorimeter measures the energy of nuclear fragments resulting from nucleus-nucleus collisions at the center of the ATLAS experiment at LHC.The ZDC is subject to high radiation exposures and optical detector elements in the ZDC that are damaged by radiation driven processes and require replacement. The NPL is developing a new ZDC based on liquid radiator materials, improving the radiation hardness of the detector. One set of two new prototypes were tested with 30 GeV and 150 GeV led-nucleus beams at the SPS in December 2016. The summer research project will study the structure and chemical composition of optical ZDC components after irradiation. Our goal is to understand the radiation driven chemistry that leads to the degradation of the optical properties.

    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 2
    Development of low background NaI detectors

    Astrophysical observations have provided convincing evidence of the existence of dark matter, yet very little is known about these mysterious particles. At UIUC, we are working on the development of ultra-low background NaI detectors, which can be used to "see" dark matter signals at underground locations. We are particularly interested in testing the annual modulation signals observed by the DAMA collaboration. In the summer, the Young Scholar will learn how to calibrate the NaI crystals and how to measure their intrinsic radioactive backgrounds. They will also work on pulse shape analysis to discriminate gamma and alpha signals.

    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 3
    Scintillation light collection simulation for nEDM experiment

    The dominance of matter in the Universe is one of the biggest mysteries in particle physics. It implies that a new physical process exists that do not obey time reversal symmetry. Measuring the neutron electric dipole moment (nEDM) is one of most sensitive ways of searching for new sources of time violation. The nEDM experiment at Oak Ridge National Lab is an ambitious project that aims to improve the previous experimental limit by two orders of magnitude. The experiment uses scintillation light from superfluid helium to detect the neutron interactions. At UIUC, we are developing simulation software that can optimize the signal detection for the experiment. The Young Scholar will learn state-of-art particle physics simulation software and use it to study light collection efficiency of different prototype geometries.

    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 4
    nEDM Magnetometer Development

    In the universe, the dominance of matter over anti-matter is thought to have originated at the time of the Big Bang.  In the neutron electric dipole moment (nEDM) experiment, we are looking for a tiny echo of the Big Bang in the properties of the neutron.  We will begin learning how to make these precision measurements at the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble, France, the site of the world’s strongest source of slow neutrons.  These measurements require extremely accurate magnetometers which we will work on developing in Urbana this summer.

    Young Scholars 5
    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 5
    ATLAS Muon Spectrometer Electronics Test

    The ATLAS Muon Spectrometer measures the trajectories of muons produced in the particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. Muons are important signatures to study the physics of the Higgs boson, a recently discovered particle at the LHC that is responsible for giving mass to particles. We are working on developing new electronics to read out and process the data from the muon detectors for the future LHC runs and the summer project will be to help test these electronics.

    Young Scholars 6
    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 6
    Electrons in Materials

    The world around us is made up of nuclei and electrons interacting with us. All the different materials, from living beings to superconductors, have their observable behavior determined by the behavior of this soup of particles. In this project, the student will visit a lab where materials with unique properties are being made. They will use computer programs to simulate and visualize the electrons inside the material that lead to the properties that we observe.

    Young Scholars 7
    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 7
    Jumping Genes and Antimicrobials

    Organisms’ genomes are not static, and are constantly mutating and changing. One of the primary mechanisms generating mutations is the activity of transposable elements, genetic parasites which jump around and replicate themselves inside the genomes of all living organisms. This summer research project will develop methods for observing transposable elements jump around inside live cells and in real time, and investigate their potential development as a novel class of antimicrobial treatment.

    Young Scholars 8
    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 8
    Biochemistry of swimming bacteria

    Bacteria are unicellular model organisms used to study biological processes such as growth, metabolism, and evolution. We study how bacterial cells swim and respond to environmental signals sensed by "receptor" proteins on the surface of the cell. We use light microscopy to observe the swimming behavior of a population of bacteria. We also use “optical traps” which utilize focused laser light to immobilize cells to observe the swimming motion of single bacterial cells and their flagella, the propeller-like appendages they use to swim. Using strains of the bacterium E. coli, with mutations in their receptor proteins and measuring swimming behavior using light microscopy and optical trapping, we will investigate the connection between receptor protein conformation and the swimming behavior of the cell.

    Young Scholars 9
    phYSics Young Scholars :: Project # 9
    Zeno effect fiber filter fabrication

    The Zeno effect is a result from quantum mechanics which shows that the evolution of a particle's state can be halted by frequently observing it. This is an extremely surprising result, because it implies that a particle's behavior can be changed just by monitoring it! We are working on a demonstration of a the Zeno effect with spatial modes of a light beam. In our system, the position of the beam will be slightly shifted in one direction each time it passes through a loop. Without intereference it will simply drift to one side. By placing a fiber filter in the system which couples the light back into its original un-deflected state, we aim to show that the beam will remain in the same position, without loss. The Young Scholar will help build and characterize the fiber filter.

    Poster Presentation Slides

    Poster workshop pdf slides on how to create an effective poster are below.
    Workshop #1 slides.
    Workshop #2 slides.

    Program Schedule & Calendar of Events

    Located at P/O/E/T/S website: HERE

    Teacher Schedule

    Weekly Teacher meeting schedule: HERE

    Questions? Contact:

    Phone: 217-244-5623

    P/O/E/T/S Center For Power Optimization Of Electro-Thermal Systems: Young Scholars Program

    2017 Young Scholars Slideshow