Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Lab and ATAP Division Host James Logan High School

Berkeley Lab and ATAP staff host students and teachers from James Logan High School. (front row right) Faith Dukes, the Lab’s director of K-12 STEM education programs; (front row second from right) Asmita Patel, ATAP deputy director for operations; (back row sixth from left); (front row third from left) Ambika Sekar, physics teacher at James Logan High School; and (back row center) Paolo Ferracin, senior scientist and deputy head of ATAP’s Superconducting Magnet Program. (Credit: Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab)

By Carl A. Williams, February 22, 2024

On February 15, 2024, the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics (ATAP) Division at Berkeley Lab and the Lab’s K-12 STEM Education Program hosted a group of K-12 students from James Logan High School, a public high school in Union City, California. The students and their teachers were given a guided tour of the Lab’s superconducting magnet assembly and the Advanced Light Source facilities. They also heard a talk on superconducting magnets from Paolo Ferracin, a senior scientist and deputy of ATAP’s Superconducting Magnet Program. The event is one of many that the Lab undertakes as part of its commitment to fostering the next generation of scientists. 

These outreach activities “are essential to promoting a better understanding of the science and applications of particle accelerator technologies and for creating a pipeline to careers at the Lab and the wider scientific community,” says Ferracin.

“It was an enriching experience, and the students were engaged from the very start of the tour and asked very insightful and probing questions, showing that they understood the science of what we do at the facility and its importance to society.”

Earlier in the month, he also visited the school and lectured on the science behind superconductivity and superconducting magnets, which are essential components of the Large Hadron Collider—the world’s most powerful particle collider—and the main focus of his research.

Paolo Ferracin (left), senior scientist and deputy head of ATAP’s Superconducting Magnet Program, leads a group of students from James Logan High School and their physics teacher, Ambika Sekar (second from right), on a tour of the magnet assembly facilities at Berkeley Lab. (Credit: Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab)

“The lecture lasted about three hours, which I didn’t expect, as my slides were supposed to cover only about half of that time,” he notes. “But the students were engaged the entire time, asking many interesting questions on the scientific and personal aspects of working at the Lab.”

He adds that the experience was “extremely positive,” with the students’ questions “forcing me to see things from a different perspective and to consider aspects of my job that I had not thought about.”

Ambika Sekar, a physics teacher at James Logan High School who organized and hosted Ferracin’s visit, said the lecture “received positive feedback from my students.”

“I believe it is essential for high school students to be aware of ongoing research, especially about how it is connected with what they learn in class and its important applications.”

“For many of them,” she continues,” such opportunities to discuss science beyond the classroom are rare and extremely valuable. Paolo’s concepts on magnetism are part of the Applied Physics 2 curriculum, and my students were excited about that after the lecture. This validates what they learn in the classroom … and that these lectures motivate students to realize that they can contribute meaningfully to science and technology. I am very thankful to Paolo for coming to our school and getting my students excited about research.”

Education, Outreach, and Diversity Coordinator Ina Reichel guided the students around the Lab’s Advanced Light Sources facility. (Credit: Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab)

Ferracin says that these types of outreach and education activities show that being a scientist and carrying out research can be very fulfilling and stimulating and offer unique opportunities for learning and growth.

“I hope that outreach activities of this kind will help to motivate more students to become interested in spending some time at the lab through, for example, one of our summer programs and to pursue a career in science.”


To learn more …

K-12 STEM Education and Outreach

High School Programs


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