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Summer Physics Academy Reaches Out to Local Students Through Their Teachers

UC Riverside Summer Physics Academy Reaches Out to Local High School Students Through Their Teachers

Two-week workshop aims at preparing region’s next generation of physicists

(July 15, 2010)

In a past Summer Physics Academy at UC Riverside, John Ellison (left), a professor of physics, helps local high-school teachers build a cosmic ray detector.  Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

In a past Summer Physics Academy at UC Riverside, John Ellison (left), a professor of physics, helps local high-school teachers build a cosmic ray detector. Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – For the third year in a row, UC Riverside is hosting the Summer Physics Academy – a two-week workshop that trains and equips local high school physics teachers with practical and conceptual physics lessons, hands-on activities, curriculum and technology to use in their own classrooms.

This year the academy will take place July 19-22 and July 27-30 in Room 3041 (Reading Room) in the Physics Building on campus. It will host 17 physics teachers from high schools in Southern California.

Run by UCR’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the ALPHA (Academy of Learning Through Partnerships for Higher Achievement) Center, the workshop aims to reach out to local high school students, through their teachers, in an effort to encourage them to learn physics, build and maintain interest in attending college and majoring in physics, and prepare them for rigorous physics courses at the college level.

“We would like to establish a strong connection with the participating teachers and, with their help, inspire their best students to join UCR,” said Leonid Pryadko, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, who is organizing the academy.

Working closely with more than a dozen UCR physicists, the high school teachers will learn the latest in a variety of research topics conducted by these physicists such as cosmology, nanotechnology, particle physics, biophysics and quantum computing. In addition, more traditional physics topics, including forces, heat, electricity, magnetism, optics, and classical mechanics, will be included in the curriculum. The teachers will then take this knowledge to their classrooms to share with their students.

Each day of the workshop, the teachers will attend lectures and perform hands-on laboratory exercises designed to (a) illustrate the concepts taught in the lectures and (b) introduce new approaches to understanding and teach theses concepts. They also will experience first-hand a college-level physics class and two laboratory sessions, and have the opportunity to participate in the research of UCR physics faculty.

On July 28 and July 29, the teachers will be involved in a high-energy physics project organized by John Ellison, a professor of physics, in which the teachers will build detectors and measure cosmic ray activity.

Participating teachers hail from the following schools:

Apple Valley High School
Arlington High School
Bayside Community Day School
Cal State Long Beach
Central LA High School #9
Coachella Valley High School
Compton High School
James Monroe High School
Los Osos High School
Mira Costa High School
Moreno Valley High School
North High School
Redlands High School
Riverside Poly High School
Sunny Hills High School
Vista del Lago High School
West Valley High School

Each of the participating teachers will receive a stipend of $600 for the duration of the workshop. Each teacher also will receive, free of charge, lunch and parking permits. Several science supply companies have donated materials and gift cards for distribution to the teachers.

“We are excited by the increasing interest the teachers in Southern California have shown in attending the academy, and we expect yet another successful academy this year,” said Maria Simani, a program director at the ALPHA Center, who is assisting Pryadko in organizing the academy. “Our teacher applicants have anywhere from 0 to 30 years of teaching experience. Some teachers want to come back a second year, and we are becoming increasingly popular among the American Association of Physics Teachers. We are already well on our way to creating an Inland Empire network of physics teachers linked to UCR resources as well as becoming a resource also for physics teachers in Southern California.”

The Summer Physics Academy is funded by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the ALPHA Center, with contributions from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and other funding agencies.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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