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Minutes of TheoryNet Meeting: October 2, 2010

Physics Theorynet meeting, October 2, 2010 

Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston 

Minutes/Action items: 



Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School 

Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy 

Mike Wadness, Medford H.S. 

Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial H.S. 

Noreen Scarpitto, Reading Memorial H.S. 

Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S. 

Timothy Stamnitz, Merrimack Valley High School

Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S. 

Brent Nelson, Northeastern University

Brandon Murakami, Rhode Island College 

Ken Olum, Tufts University

Nick Nicastro, Wachusett Regional H.S. 

Nivedi Das, Sharon H.S.

Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado, Tufts University

Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern University 

Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire 

Matthew Headrick, Brandeis University


John Janetti, Andover H.S.

Ann Kaiser, La Salle Academy

Albion Lawrence, Brandeis 

Jesse Thaler, MIT

Allan Adams, MIT 

Matthew Schwartz, Harvard

Xi Han, Harvard

Sean Hartnoll, Harvard

1.  Recent Roster Changes: 

For those have not yet heard the news, we lost two high school instructors from our ranks over the summer: Farhad Riahi has retired from his position, and Jesus Hernadez has taken a new position in New York. But when one door closes, another opens. We were pleased to welcome Tim Stamnitz from the Concord, NH area to our meeting. We also were able to recruit Sean Hartnoll from Harvard to participate from the theorist side. Sean will be here for the current academic year before taking a position at Stanford. We also welcomed back from sabbatical leave Tom Taylor and Per Berglund.

2. Expansion & Recruitment

The changes to our roster prompted an initial discussion of our recruitment efforts and the need to maintain a balance between faculty/theorists and high school instructors. Despite losing two regulars, it appears that we currently have a slight deficit on the faculty side of the equation. Maintaining a slight excess in the roster of university faculty is generally needed since in any given academic year we can expect to lose one or two members to sabbatical leave or other commitments. We reviewed the names on the TheoryNet mailing list, which includes some individuals who receive our news and announcements but who may not have been active in the past. We also drew up a list of potential recruits in the Boston area, as well as in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. We hope to grow by one or two individuals in the faculty area by the time of our next meeting.

We have been moderately successful with word-of-mouth recruiting among high-school instructors. We have a few potential leads in the area which we will be pursuing over the next month. A great opportunity to make further contacts in southern New England is the next APS/AAPT meeting to be held at Brown University on Oct 29-30, 2010 (website: http://www.physics.brown.edu/NES_APS/index.asp). Tom Taylor agreed to attend the meeting and promote the TheoryNet program. An all-purpose, general TheoryNet advertising PowerPoint presentation is available which can be utilized by any member at meetings such as this one. We also have a number of presentation materials at Northeastern which can help to make a successful presence at such conferences.

At our spring meeting we discussed the "intake" procedure by which curious new high school instructors get integrated into the TheoryNet program. Our periodic meetings are a natural venue for getting acquainted with the activities and individuals that make up TheoryNet, but the meetings are infrequent and may represent a bit of a potential barrier, particularly for instructors outside of the Boston Metro area. In an effort to streamline the process it was suggested that we facilitate direct one-on-one contact

between any potential new high school instructor and a faculty member as soon as possible. There are a few faculty members who are not yet paired who may be available for impromptu visits as they arise, or some of our members may be willing to make more than one visit in a semester. Therefore, it was suggested that as we make contact with new high school instructors we strongly encourage them to contact me (Brent Nelson) at b nelson neu edu and I will take on the work of coordinating contact between new instructors and our roster of theorists.

3. Website

By the time of our next meeting (see below) we hope to have a website up and running for TheoryNet, based on the format and layout of our recruiting brochure. The intention is to get as many pictures of actual classroom visits as possible on the site, and provide links to our mailing list and archive of past TheoryNet postings. Any materials/photos/blurbs that any of you can send to b nelson neu edu would be most appreciated.

4. Pairings for Fall Semester

The following pairings for the fall semester were established or confirmed:

Needham HS - Jesse Thaler

Wachusett Regional HS - Brent Nelson

Sharon HS - Ken Olum

Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S. - Tom Taylor

Andover HS - OPEN (Possibly Sean Hartnoll)

Medford HS - Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado

Roxbury Latin HS - Xi Han

Coe-Brown Northwood Academy - Per Berglund

Merrimack Valley HS - Brent Nelson (spring)

La Salle Academy - Brandon Murakami

Reading Memorial HS - Matthew Headrick

5. Equipment

The Millikan oil drop experiment that we purchased last spring from PASCOS apparently works well. Thanks to Mike Hirsh for giving it a test drive. Scott Goelzer borrowed it and will attempt to make a storage box for it. The apparatus includes a microscope on a stand which connects to a laptop so that the chamber with the oil droplets can be projected onto a screen, if desired. The projection microscope is a separate piece of equipment, but we purchased it for just such an experiment. Scott also has our Helmholtz coils device. The electron diffraction equipment is with Mike Wadness in Medford, as is our dry ice based cloud chamber. We have a second cloud chamber which does not require dry ice and this is currently with Nivedi Das in Sharon. When we get the website up and running it was suggested that there be a link to an equipment page where the status of the equipment (and contact information to the people who have each item) can be posted and updated regularly. For the time being, please send requests to borrow the equipment to b nelson neu edu and I can coordinate the transfer. 

Since most of the equipment tends to involve modern physics concepts, it was noted that the demand will usually peak for all instructors towards the end of the spring semester. It may, therefore, make sense to invest in duplicates of some of the most popular items -- in particular, the electron diffraction apparatus which is very simple to use and fairly self-contained. We will look into purchasing another copy of this experiment. It was also suggested that we investigate buying a cathode ray tube for the Thomson electron discovery experiment. Finally, in an effort to both provide visual aides to many of the topics addressed in the TheoryNet visits, as well as find demonstrations of relevance earlier in the academic year, it was suggested that we look into purchasing or building a torsional/transverse wave demonstrator. We will pursue some leads in these directions and report back at the next meeting.

6. Next meeting

I forgot to bring up the issue of potential dates for our next meeting! My apologies everyone. In the past we have typically had our winter meeting sometime around MLK Day. In 2011 that will be January 17, so I would suggest Saturday, January 22 with the following week as an alternate date.

Brent Nelson
Department of Physics
Northeastern University
110 Forsyth Street
111 Dana Research Center
Boston, MA 02115