Despite getting a taste of physics senior year, most St. Benedict’s students are not aware of what a physicist does. However, Physics teacher Rich Molina introduced his students to physicist Dr. Kurt Jung, who specializes in high energy particle physics, via Google Hangouts, November 29.
A postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois, Dr. Jung is currently analyzing data and helping conduct experiments in Switzerland for the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, CERN.
At CERN, Dr. Jung witnesses the collisions of ions that radiate temperature one thousand times hotter than Earth’s sun. When ions collide the heat converts dense pieces of matter into a soup made up of quarks and gluons. This process recreates an environment analogous to moments after the Big Bang, and gives physicists a better understanding of the particles that make up matter.
Dr. Jung reflected on particle physics’ uniqueness. “It gives us the ability to discover more about the experience of matter and how it behaves.”
During the period, students posed questions ranging from physics in everyday life to the college process.
Senior Alex Lemus felt enlightened after his discussion with Dr. Jung. “I learned that physics isn’t a simple subject because there is so much more that has yet to be discovered.”
Physics is a perplexing subject that not only fueled Dr. Jung’s desire toward answering the universe’s unknowns, but also formed the basis of the friendship between Dr. Jung and Mr. Molina at their alma mater, University of Notre Dame.
Mr. Molina contacted Dr. Jung shortly after he earned his Ph.D at Purdue University. While catching up, Dr. Jung pitched the idea of skyping Mr. Molina’s class from his office at CERN.
Mr. Molina immediately agreed it was great idea.
“I believe that the opportunity for high school students to interact with working scientists is invaluable.”