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Sowjanya Gollapinni, Assistant Professor


The QuarkNet program was launched by Prof. Gollapinni in summer 2017. The UTK QuarkNet group includes:

  1. Prof. Gollapinni — Primary mentor
  2. Mr. Kranti Gunthoti — Secondary mentor
  3. Mr. Tommy Eggleston — AP Physics & Math Teacher, West High, Knoxville
  4. Ms. Erica Johnson — Chemistry teacher, Halls High, Knoxville

UT Physics Web feature on QuarkNet:

Below: Johnson and Eggleston at Fermilab, where they attended data camp as part of their QuarkNet training (left). They built cosmic ray detectors for Halls and West High Schools, with help from undergraduate physics major Tara Skiba. Image credit: Kranti Gunthoti.

There were two main goals the UTK QuarkNet center wanted to achieve:

  • Cosmic ray studies with the QuarkNet Cosmic Ray Muon Detector (CRMD)
  • Analysis of real data from the MicroBooNE neutrino experiment leading to the planned International Neutrino Master Class Program

Cosmic ray muon studies with the CRMD:
We received the QuarkNet CRMD kit in June and after the CRMD training workshop given by the QuarkNet fellow at UTK, the two teachers started operating the detector. Building the cosmic ray detector provided good hardware experience to the two teachers and taught them the basic elements that make a particle physics experiment. The first goal with CRMD was to calibrate the detector by plateauing the Photomultiplier Tubes (PMTs). Both teachers were instructed to perform the full calibration procedure to understand how calibration is typically done in experiments. After the initial calibration, both teachers collected data continuously and focused on measuring different properties of cosmic rays. Tommy Eggleston focused on measuring muon time of flight where as Erica Johnson focused on measuring the muon lifetime.

Data analysis with the MicroBooNE experiment:
The MicroBooNE experiment is built to explore the properties of neutrinos. Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles in the universe. The MicroBooNE experiment at Fermilab is aimed at answering whether there are more than three flavors of neutrinos.. Since neutrinos cannot be directly detected as they are neutral, we study them through their interactions with other particles. MicroBooNE uses the innovative Liquid Argon Time Projection Chamber (LArTPC) technology to study neutrinos. This detector is placed in a large tank of liquid argon. Neutrino interactions with argon produce charged particles that ionize argon producing ionization electrons that drift towards the anode in the applied electric field. These electrons register as signals on the anode wire planes, which can later be used to reconstruct charged particle tracks. As a first step, a few lecture/discussion sessions were held to introduce the teachers about basics of neutrinos, MicroBooNE experiment along with what techniques experimentalists use to detect neutrino interactions. To help teachers get familiar with this, two practice exercises were conducted where teachers were given 20 event displays in each session and are asked to identify the various particles (tracks) shown in the event displays and form a summary table listing what type of particles were identified. After this initial step, the next step was to identify and implement a event display that is suitable for high school teachers/students to perform data analysis visually. The ARGO event display ( developed by Prof. Nathaniel Tagg (MicroBooNE collaborator) was identified as the most suitable browser based event display that can be used by teachers. The two main goals with MicroBooNE data analysis is 1). measurement of velocity of drifting electrons and 2). measuring the purity of liquid argon. The teachers were able to use ARGO to perform both of these measurements and in the process gave a lot of good feedback to Tagg to further improve the display with needed information to do the analysis. This will be pursued further moving into the future.

More details on the studies along with results can be found here.

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