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Minutes of the TheoryNet Meeting, January 21, 2017

Physics TheoryNet Meeting, January 21, 2017

Room 218 Dana Building, Northeastern University




Brent Nelson — Northeastern University

Nancy Najmi — Reading Memorial HS

Michael Hirsh — Needham HS

Ken Olum — Tufts University

Russell Sears — Cohasset HS

Matthew Headrick — Brandeis University


Chris Siren — Groton-Dunstable Regional HS

John Samperisi — Monadnock Regional HS

Mike Wadness — Medford HS

Scott Goelzer — Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Elaine Picard — Concord-Carlisle HS

Nivedi Das — Sharon HS

George Odell — North Andover HS

Richard Levergood — Londonderry HS

Jesse Thaler — MIT

Phiala Shanahan — MIT

James Halverson — Northeastern University

Liam Fitzpatrick — Boston University

Jiji Fan — Brown University

Per Berglund — University of New Hampshire

Tomasz Taylor — Northeastern University

Daniel Jafferis — Harvard University

Matt Reece — Harvard University

A. School Visits

During the fall semester there were two school visits reported. Jim Halverson from Northeastern visited Needham HS, giving a roughly one hour lecture on the Standard Model and string theory. The audience was a mix of seniors with a range of abilities (50-55 total students). One student was so intrigued that he announced the next day that he “was up all night, thinking about nine dimensions”! Another student asked if he could do a summer project on string theory, possibly with Professor Halverson. The plan is for a return visit in the spring.

Brent Nelson visited Cohasset HS in December. The audience included two combined classes of AP and general physics students (roughly 60 students), and the two presentations were each about 90 minutes in length, which left a lot of time for questions. Some questions were quite insightful, and there were many questions on the career-side of being a physicist. 

B. Pairings

As attendance was sparse (it being the day after the inauguration), it may be that other visits took place that were not reported at the meeting. There seems to also be some confusion as to pairings. Below is the pairing list from the fall meeting minutes. There are some empty spots, which could be filled by faculty if there is interest from high school instructors.

 — Fall 2016 Pairings —

Brent Nelson — John Samperisi, Monadnock Regional HS

Brent Nelson — Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Brent Nelson — Russell Sears, Cohasset HS

Matt Headrick — Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional HS

Jesse Thaler — Elaine Picard, Concord-Carlisle HS

Jim Halverson — Michael Hirsh, Needham HS

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

Phiala Shanahan — Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial HS

Liam Fitzpatrick — Mike Wadness, Medford HS


George Odell, North Andover HS

Richard Levergood, Londonderry HS

Robert Moore, Roxbury Latin School


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

Daniel Jafferis

Matt Reece

C. Faculty Recruitment

New faculty in the area were contacted directly, in late October, and invited to participate. The list included some more senior faculty who have worked with TheoryNet in the past. It was suggested that we reach out again, as well as confirming that HS instructors that have not been at the meetings are still interested in having someone paired with their school.

D. Equipment

There are some remaining funds in the grant budget that are earmarked for equipment. Two more diffusion cloud chambers (the kind which run on ice water) were ordered from PASCO. These are inexpensive ($535), easy to use, and popular. There is quite an inventory of equipment, currently at Northeastern, which is available for loan, though some of that equipment should be checked for needed repairs. In particular, new fuses were purchased for the power supply on the electric diffraction experiment, but they have yet to be tested. To find out the location, and status of a piece of equipment, please see the Google Doc at 


E. Other Business: Outreach event, February 15-16

A colleague of Matt Headrick’s alerted us to the organization of an outreach event to be held in conjunction with the AAAS Meeting to be held in Boston February 16-20. An announcement about the event was sent to the TheoryNet mailing list by Ken Olum in mid-January. More information can be found here:

"AAAS Science Days: In the Classroom"  


Where: High schools and middle schools in the Boston and surrounding areas.

When: Thursday February 16th. During lunch periods.

What: Scientists give 15min talks about how they fell in love with science, obstacles they've overcome and why they aren't the stereotypical image of a scientist. One talk per school/group.  + Free Pizza for students and teachers.

Who: AAAS is spearheading the effort in connection with their annual meeting in Boston Feb 16-20.  Other organizations/universities are collaborating in order to make the event a success. 

*Who we need: SCHOOLS -- Someone with a connection in a local school (grade 6-12) to connect us, and be there to ensure the students and the pizza find each other in the right room at the right time.

*Who we need: SCIENTISTS -- Scientists interested in sharing with students how they fell in love with science, obstacles they've overcome and why they aren't the stereotypical image of a scientist

The format is slightly less formal than the typical TheoryNet classroom visit, and would be facilitated by the AAAS. Interested parties are strongly urged to come to the training meeting at the Boston Sheraton to be held on February 15. 

F. Next Meeting

Our spring meeting is scheduled for May 13 (the day before Mother’s Day). 

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