Over the summer, Oundle School pupil, Rebecca Siddall (16) enjoyed a placement at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a multipurpose 5000 acre research institution funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
“I originally met my Brookhaven mentor at the 2011 Rutherford Centennial Conference at Manchester University. Dr Aihong Tang - a world expert on antimatter physics - delivered a lecture about how he and his team had recently detected the first ever antihelium-4 nuclei. This was a historic discovery, achieved despite both the rarity of antihelium and the large amount of data needed to identify it. Over the next few years we stayed in touch, and this summer Dr Tang suggested I apply to Brookhaven for the High School Research Program.”
Located on Long Island, New York, Brookhaven brings world-class facilities and expertise to the most exciting and important questions in basic and applied science—from the birth of our universe to the sustainable energy technology of tomorrow. At Brookhaven scientists operate cutting-edge large-scale facilities for studies in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, applied science, and a wide range of advanced technologies. The Laboratory's almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 4,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Its award-winning history stretches back to 1947, as its staff continue to unravel mysteries from the nanoscale to the cosmic scale, and everything in between.
In July, Rebecca joined Dr Tang’s team at STAR, the solenoidal tracker at Brookhaven. This plays a crucial part in particle detection for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, Brookhaven’s particle accelerator. Following ten days’ tuition by STAR’s computer programmer, Dr Hongwei Ke, Rebecca was introduced to ROOT: a computer sub-language shared with Europe’s Large Hadron Collider. Her main role was to help streamline the collision data processing used by 400 physicists globally who belong to the STAR collaboration.
“Nothing can prepare you for your first encounter with STAR. Although it resembles a cross between Star Gate and the spacecraft in Alien, those two are just science fiction: STAR is science fact. Each and every component is engineered for one aim: to explore the fabric of reality by tearing open its subatomic building blocks, revealing what has previously – often since the birth of the Universe – been undetectable, and therefore undiscoverable. Yet what I also discovered throughout my placement is that even though particle physics at STAR is of course necessarily technical, it is simultaneously a very human quest which demands inspiration and imagination…together with a steadfast patience over decades.”
To complete her placement, Dr Tang asked Rebecca to create a research poster which summarised and showcased her work, and also to write an article about the numerous antimatter discoveries at STAR over the past few years, for public viewing on STAR's own website.
“Each of these assignments presented a different challenge. A research poster demands methodical science, whereas the article needed accessible writing, suitable to engage general site visitors when they browse online. Luckily – as well as all the required research papers, I had Dr Tang and Dr Ke on hand for advice. It was an honour to represent Brookhaven in these ways.
I am also glad that my month spent acquiring the vital computing skills with which to perform my main task – to help improve STAR’s data processing – have been successful. Flying back home over Long Island, I reflected upon the brilliant people I had met, the memories I will keep close, and the knowledge that in my time at STAR I have made my own small contribution to its future.”
Rebecca’s article can be read here: http://www.star.bnl.gov/lite/antimatter.php
Background Information on Oundle School
Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing sixteen state-of-the-art laboratories. The School has now completed a second phase of the development project which sees a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to the original SciTec building as well as a significant upgrade to and refurbishment of the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. The development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. An ongoing Sports MasterPlan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, incorporating the building of a new Sports Centre housing a fifty metre swimming pool and an eight court sports hall.
There are currently 1110 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 860 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day school for children aged 4 to 11.