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Minutes of the Physics Theorynet Meeting, September 24, 2016

Physics TheoryNet Meeting, September 24, 2016

Room 218 Dana Building, Northeastern University




Brent Nelson — Northeastern University

James Halverson — Northeastern University

Liam Fitzpatrick — Boston University

Ken Olum — Tufts University

John Samperisi — Monadnock Regional HS

Mike Wadness — Medford HS

Russell Sears — Cohasset HS

Chris Siren — Groton-Dunstable Regional HS


Nancy Najmi — Reading Memorial HS

Scott Goelzer — Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Elaine Picard — Concord-Carlisle HS

Michael Hirsh — Needham HS

Nivedi Das — Sharon HS

George Odell — North Andover HS

Richard Levergood — Londonderry HS

Jesse Thaler — MIT

Phiala Shanahan — MIT

Jiji Fan — Brown University

Per Berglund — University of New Hampshire

Tomasz Taylor — Northeastern University

Daniel Jafferis — Harvard University

Matt Reece — Harvard University

Matthew Headrick — Brandeis University

A. School Visits

Only a couple of visits took place in the time since our last meeting on June 4, 2016. That included a visit by Brent Nelson to Mike Wadness’s class at Medford HS, where he spoke to two classes, mostly on biographical material and the LHC. Mike pointed out that having two different speakers over the course of the academic year had some advantages, since it gave students more diversity of exposure to careers and interests in theoretical physics. Tomasz Taylor also visited Russell Sears at Cohasset HS in the late spring.

B. School Pairings

One of the primary purposes of the first fall meeting is to establish pairings between theorists and HS instructors for the coming academic year. Our attendance was a little low, probably reflecting inadequate early reminders of the meeting date by the organizers. This meant that some pairings could not be established at the meeting, and will need to be organized via email. Below is the list of pairings, which should be considered both tentative, and subject to revision if the parties agree. In some case, as neither party was at the meeting, we adopted the pairing from the previous year as a default.

For those receiving these minutes via the mailing list, please email Brent Nelson (B Nelson neu edu) to confirm your interest in continuing your participation. Those listed as “unpaired” — particularly theory faculty, should contact Brent to indicate a preference for matching with unpaired high school instructors.

 — Fall 2016 Pairings —

Brent Nelson — John Samperisi, Monadnock Regional HS

Liam Fitzpatrick — Mike Wadness, Medford HS

Brent Nelson — Russell Sears, Cohasset HS

Matt Headrick — Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional HS

UNPAIRED — Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial HS

UNPAIRED — Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Jesse Thaler — Elaine Picard, Concord-Carlisle HS

Jim Halverson — Michael Hirsh, Needham HS

Ken Olum or Jiji Fan (?) (MBTA accessible) — Nivedi Das, Sharon HS

UNPAIRED — George Odell, North Andover HS

UNPAIRED — Richard Levergood, Londonderry HS

UNPAIRED — Robert Moore, Roxbury Latin School


Per Berglund (on sabbatical), Tom Taylor (on sabbatical)

Daniel Jafferis

Phiala Shanahan

Matt Reece (?)

Note that we welcomed a new participant, Prof. Liam Fitzpatrick of Boston University. An email was sent to a number of faculty in the area hired in the last few years, some of whom have occasionally participated in our program in past years. We hope that some new members can step in to fill some empty spots resulting from the sabbatical of two of our more active members, Per Berglund and Tom Taylor.

C. Equipment

Some of our equipment is in need of repair, or replacement parts. New fuses were purchased for the power supply in the electron diffraction device, though the repaired power supply needs to be tested. Hopefully we do not need to purchase a new one. Meanwhile, the “non-dry-ice” cloud chamber does indeed need a new power supply. We will purchase these items in the coming two months. 

In addition, the group will look into purchasing a duplicate cloud chamber device, and a photoelectric effect experiment. Please note that equipment is usually on extended loan to individual high schools, and swapping equipment is most conveniently done person-to-person (as opposed to bringing equipment all the way to Boston at a group meeting). To find out the location, and status of a piece of equipment, please see the Google Doc at 

D. Other Business

It was suggested that it may be worthwhile to invite interested postdocs, or even (perhaps especially) graduate students to accompany faculty visits. While a graduate student visiting alone would probably not be appropriate, grad students are closer in age to the high school students and thus can provide a fresher perspective on life in academia, progressing towards a career in science. In addition, some of the demonstration equipment can be quite cumbersome to set up and demonstrate while simultaneously delivering a presentation. A graduate student could assist in this area. Finally, inviting graduate students may allow us to increase the number of visiting individuals who are women or belong to under-represented minorities.

It was suggested that any surplus funds that might accumulate, from time to time, could be used to pay for an individual’s time to maintain and catalog the equipment roster. Such a person could prepare manuals, suggested experiments, make minor repairs, suggest needed replacement parts, and research additional equipment for purchase. It was also suggested that the group consider sending a representative to the national AAPT meeting.

E. Next Meeting

Our winter meeting is scheduled for January 21. We will be pairing up those unpaired participants and reporting on fall class visits.

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