Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 25  |  Friday, April 19, 2002  |  Number 7
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Learning and Growing
Iowa universities extend the state's educational heritage to work at Fermilab

by Mike Perricone

Corn and soybeans top Iowa’s list of homegrown commodities, but physicists represent a solid investment in Hawkeye State futures. The University of Iowa and Iowa State University share a presence at Fermilab reflecting the state’s historic priorities of public education and growth.

Agriculture and education have been strongly linked throughout Iowa’s history. Iowa State University traces its antecedents back to the State Agricultural Society in Fairfield in 1853, conducting agricultural research and statewide agricultural education programs. The State Agricultural College and Model Farm was established in 1858, and it became one of the country’s first land-grant colleges as the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Ames.

The Federal land-grant program, under legislation sponsored by Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont and signed by President Lincoln in 1862, provided each state with a grant of public lands. Proceeds from the sale of the lands would be used to “teach such branches of learning as are related to agricultural and mechanic arts.”

George Washington Carver George Washington Carver could stand as a symbol for the far-reaching benefits of public education and the land-grant program.

In 1891, Carver became the first African American to enroll at the Iowa State College. He soon became Iowa State’s first African American faculty member, before Booker T. Washington invited him to join the faculty of Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute in 1896. While at Tuskegee, Carver not only revolutionized southern farming with his research, he also brought with him the Iowa State extension concept, creating “movable schools” to bring both scientific and practical knowledge to farmers throughout the south.

But even before the land-grant program, Iowans had demonstrated their commitment to public and equal-opportunity education.

The Iowa River divides the east and west sides of campus. The University of Iowa was founded in February 1847, just 59 days after Iowa achieved statehood. It was the first U.S. public university to admit men and women on an equal basis, and it was the world’s first university to accept creative work in theater, writing, music and art on an equal basis with academic research.

When the state capital was moved to Des Moines in 1857, the Old Capitol building became the first permanent home of the University in Iowa City. Nearly two-thirds of the current University of Iowa enrollment (nearly 29,000 total) are Iowa natives, and Iowa City is consistently ranked among the best places to live in the U.S. Despite ranking 30th in population (at 2.9 million, just slightly larger than the city of Chicago), with one of the country’s lower population densities, Iowa has three state universities, 62 public and private colleges and 28 community colleges.

Some University of Iowa “firsts” drive home the historic primacy of education and equal opportunity:

  • The Medical Department held its first sessions in 1870, and with eight women in its original class, it was America’s first co-educational medical school.
  • The University created the nation’s first permanent college-level department of education in 1872.
  • The first woman to graduate from the University’s Law Department, Mary B. Wilkinson, in 1873, was possibly the first woman to earn a law degree in America. The law school, which moved to Iowa City from Des Moines, was the first in the U.S. to be established west of the Mississippi.
  • The son of the first black American ambassador, Alexander Clark, Jr., became the first African American in the Iowa Law Department—and possibly in the U.S.—to earn a law degree, in 1879.
It’s a history of achievement that sets the highest standards for the future.

Pixels and fuzzy carbon

From left: Ugur Akgun, Yasar Onel, professor of physcics and astronomy; Alexi Mestvirishvili At Fermilab, graduate students from the University of Iowa are looking forward to a few more degrees of their own. They’re working on data from the SELEX (Segmented Large X baryon Spectrometer) fixed target experiment, studying charm baryons.

“SELEX is winding down, and the first full round of Ph.D.s has been completed,” said Charles Newsom, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “Students are beginning to look at that data for the next round of degrees, and at Iowa we expect to have another two or three Ph.D.s.”

The Iowa group is a strong contributor in silicon systems, working on development of radiation-hard pixel detectors for BTeV (B physics at the Tevatron) and other experiments at Fermilab, and for CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Switzerland. When the pixel detectors were placed in the test beam, Newsom said the Iowa group wrote an analysis so quickly after information was released by the data acquisition system, “it almost seemed like an online analysis program.”

The Iowa group is also working on something called “fuzzy carbon,” a material for use in close proximity with the colliding beam.

“It’s a high-radiation environment, and you need to minimize the material used,” Newsom said. “The criteria for building mechanical structures in this region are: the material must be very strong but essentially have no mass, and it must be an electrical insulator but a good thermal conductor. Obviously, these are all conflicting requirements. We’ve gone to technology that’s very much like velvet, with large numbers of parallel fibers of carbon. We’ve been at the forefront of this development, and it’s a lot of fun.”

CP violation, QCD and QuarkNet

In Theoretical Physics, Iowa State University’s German Valencia and Fabrizzio Gabbiani are working on CP violation in baryon systems and b-meson systems. Valencia recently published an article in the Particle Data Group’s Review of Particle Physics. David Atwood has contributed a section to The Higgs Hunters’ Guide (J.F. Gunion, et al., Addison Wesley, Reading, Mass.).

From left: Sehwook Lee (Korea Univ.), Jaewon Park (Korea Univ.), John Hauptman, Andrew Green, John Zhou, John Krane, Sandeep Giri, Oleksiy Atramentov. At DZero, John Krane is co-convener of the collaboration’s QCD (quantum chromodynamics) group, and spoke at a recent calorimeter conference at Cal Tech. John Hauptman, professor of physics and astronomy, is spending an entire year with the DZero collaboration, shepherding his own diverse group that includes undergraduate physics majors, graduate students, a student or two referred from another Iowa school, a growing connection with students from Korea University—almost anyone he can sign up.

Hauptman has also worked closely with QuarkNet, the program coordinated by Fermilab’s Education Office for mentoring high school students and teachers, giving them first-hand experience with experiments at Fermilab, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and CERN. Also not

surprisingly, working off his QuarkNet experiences, Hauptman has some new approaches he’d like to try in working with students.

“I hope to make a proposal for funding that would be unrestricted, that is, I could take in anyone to work on a project,” he said. “For example, my undergraduate physics majors, Mark Kane and Tom Plagge. Or a high school student, I’d like to be able to do that. A high school junior or senior can already do things with the Web that I can’t do, so they’re immediately useful. Undergraduate physics majors already know enough to do a lot of things: for example, putting together lots of cables and high voltage equipment for CMS [Compact Muon Solenoid Detector for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN]. The calorimeter we’re working on will be the first equipment to be dropped into the pit in Interaction Region 5 at CERN. I really want a high school student, and maybe an undergraduate physics major, working with me for a summer at CERN. They can drag cables, plug things in, run tests, get the monitoring and control software going. They can do all of this.”

But sometimes Hauptman gets a surprise, as he did the summer he received a call from a teacher friend in Iowa.

“He said there was this really bright kid in town, his parents didn’t know what to do with him, and was there anything I could do,” Hauptman recalled. “He turned out to be a 4th grade boy. He was a shy little kid, but I talked to him and set him at ease. The first thing I gave him was an old floppy drive to take apart, and then I gave him an old hard drive to take apart. Then I gave him an old 186 PC to work on. It was a big, old, ugly thing, but he just loved it. He had a great summer. He got to hobnob with students like Oleksiy Atramentov and Mark Kane, and he got to hang around with the big guys.”

It had to be a uniquely memorable growing experience, but then, Iowa is all about growing—and learning.

The Iowa State - Seoul Connection

On the web:

University of Iowa
Background on the Morrill Act
Iowa State University

last modified 4/19/2002   email Fermilab