Description of the 2017-18 Lectures


This represents the lecturers for the 2017-18 school year of SMP.  Visit this page to see the 2018-19 school year.

For the 2018 school year, we will be adding a lecture on Symmetry (Javier Duarte) and a lecture on Quantum Mechanics (Dan Hooper). Pedro Machado will be giving the “Intro” lecture and Tim Meyer will be giving the “Science and Society” lecture.


Dan Hooper: “Science at Fermilab (And Beyond)”

Science is a big topic.  Hooper gives a great introduction to the sort of science we do at Fermilab and others are doing world-wide.  He starts by introducing the basic concepts that will be used in the next lectures (What is Physics? What is Quantum Mechanics?  What is Particle Physics?) and continues by asking some of the most intriguing questions that motivated the development of contemporary physics: Feynman diagrams, the Standard Model of Particle Physics, symmetries, and more!


Elliott McCrory: “The Special Theory of Relativity”

A century ago, Albert Einstein published with four papers that changed physics forever.  First, we lay the groundwork for understanding some of why these papers were so amazing, especially as it relates to Maxwell’s Equations of Electricity and Magnetism.  Then we will present Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity using algebra, trains, barns, pole vaulters and the Starship Enterprise.  Next, we will derive, time dilation, length contraction, and E=mc2.  And, finally, we talk about the concept of spacetime. It should be fun, especially if you like equations!

Cecilia Gerber:  “Particle Physics: The quest to understand the fundamental structure of matter”

Particle physics research represents humanities ambitious effort to answer the fundamental question: what is the universe made of? All matter around us is made of elementary particles, the building blocks of matter. Our best understanding of how these particles and three of the fundamental forces are related to each other is summarized in the Standard Model of particle physics. Developed in the early 1970s, it has successfully explained almost all experimental results and precisely predicted a wide variety of phenomena, including the existence of the Higgs Boson. But we know the Standard Model is not complete. In this lecture, Gerber will present an introduction to the Standard Model, and a glimpse on the latest hints of phenomena that cannot be explained. You will also learn how researchers use particle accelerators and large particle detectors to look for processes beyond the predictions of the Standard Model.

Leonidas Aliaga: “Neutrinos”

Neutrinos are the most ghostly of all the subatomic particles. Although more than a trillion of these particles pass unnoticed through our bodies every second, neutrinos still remain largely mysterious given how rarely they interact with normal matter. In your entire lifetime, perhaps one neutrino will interact with an atom in your body. Scientists study these elusive particles to understand the biggest puzzles in the universe, from the structure of the atom to the formation of a star. The students will learn about the fascinating history of the discovery of the neutrino and its properties and will hear about some of the exciting experimental endeavors taking place around the world.


Cindy Joe: “Accelerators”

Accelerator science and technology has progressed in leaps and bounds since the first particle accelerator was crafted by Ernest O. Lawrence in 1932. This lecture begins by introducing the basic principles of particle acceleration. They are then expanded by introducing refinements until the picture of today’s particle accelerators is complete. Applications of accelerators and a historical tour of accelerator facilities worldwide are presented.  Joe has some amazing demonstrations of real accelerators, too!

Elisabeth Moyer: “Energy and Climate”

Energy generation and climate are vitally important topics in our world.  Here, we explore our understanding of the units of energy production and usage, and what the sources of energy are. The issue of global warming is discussed in terms of science, not politics.


Ting Li: “Cosmology”

The lecture begins with describing how the universe began and how it has evolved. The role of matter, dark matter and dark energy in the evolution of the Universe is also discussed. The lecture finishes with some of the fascinating current ideas applied to cosmology such as the string cosmology in which point-like particles are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings.

Mandy Rominsky: “The Science or Particle Detection”

How can we see something that is invisible?  That’s what makes detector science and technology so amazing.  This lecture starts detailing the interaction of particles with matter and, after many live exhibitions, ends with a description of the large scale, high-tech particle detectors that are used in High Energy Physics to understand nature at its smallest scale. Rominsky will have some demonstrations of real particle detectors in this lecture and a virtual reality demo that will let you have an amazing experience inside a neutrino detector.

Pushpa Bhat: “Physics and Society” and graduation

The interaction between science and society has never been so important as it is now.  A key issue is differentiating between scientific and non-scientific questions. Dr. Bhat shows how the current scientific challenges are viewed, used, and sometimes misused by the society in which we live. The role of society (whether it be general public or policy makers) in science, the importance of building support for science in general in the society and how it can potentially impact the future of science is also discussed.

Parents are invited to attend a parallel session, hosted by the SMP leadership, in which they will tell you a little bit about what your child has done this term, and (try to) answer your questions.


All lectures begin promptly at 9:00 AM.