Summer program gets teachers on research TRAC
Purdue University Calumet professor Neeti Parashar mentors Morton Junior High School teacher Melissa Winchell during her eight week Teacher Research Associates program at Fermilab.
After eight weeks at Fermilab, middle school teacher Melissa Winchell is an expert at asking questions. It's an ability that has helped her go from programming novice to proficient Web developer during her summer in Fermilab's Teacher Research Associates program. And it's a skill she is eager to impart to her students at Morton Junior High School in Morton, Ill.
"When I talked with the high school teachers who were also spending the summer at Fermilab, there was the one thing they said that students really needed to learn in middle school-how to ask good questions," she explained.
Winchell's work at Fermilab underscored the value of inquiry. Her mentor, Professor Neeti Parashar, from Purdue University Calumet, who spent her sabbatical at Fermilab, handed Melissa a challenging mission: restructuring a jumble of CMS Forward Pixel Web pages into an orderly, user-friendly system. Through weeks of persistent effort-and plenty of questions-she succeeded, creating a resource Parashar said the CMS collaboration will use frequently.
Meanwhile, at sites across the laboratory, the summer's four other TRAC participants spent six to eight weeks completing projects of their own. The 28-year-old TRAC program attracts mostly local residents but is open to teachers nationwide. Overall, said organizer Harry Cheung the TRAC experience offers educators "a chance to take part in research, to find out how science is an ongoing process, and to take that back to their schools."
While this year's participants wrapped up their laboratory work in early August, several hope to extend their Fermilab connection into the school year. Parashar plans to visit Winchell's science classes, and Cheung expects some of the teachers will arrange field trips to Fermilab.
Parashar is glad to maintain those ties, adding to her already rich outreach activities.
"Fermilab is very fortunate to have teachers working alongside the scientists here. Melissa has done an outstanding job of developing the Web site," she said. "The teachers' presence can be rejuvenating for scientists here, and I'm sure they will do a great job conveying a passion for physics to their students."
-- Rachel Carr