“You are a great amplification factor, you hold the future of science in your hands” – these were the words of greeting from Mick Storr (CERN, University of Birmingham) addressed to about 40 teachers of physics – participants in the Education Programme event held at St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University (SPbSPU - Polytech) on 22 June 2014. “You are doing an extremely important job. Through your teaching, you are inspiring and educating the future generations of scientists and engineers” – continued Mick , - “and it is one of the strategic missions of CERN to strongly support and thank you and your teacher colleagues all over the world“.
The meeting was organized jointly by JINR, CERN, Polytech and the recently formed CNIR (Centre of National Intellectual Reserve of Moscow State University). School teachers from St. Petersburg and Leningrad region had the opportunity to meet representatives of modern fundamental physics experiments, and ask questions about recent scientific results and on perspectives of research at the forefront of scientific knowledge. Mick Storr (CERN, University of Birmingham) and Stanislav Pakulyak (JINR) presented the educational programmes for physics teachers running at CERN and JINR. The State Polytechnic University was represented by Yaroslav Berdnikov, Head of the Experimental Nuclear Physics Department, who described the educational and scientific programmes that facilitate the involvement of Polytech students through St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PNPI, Gatchina) in the PHENIX experiment at RHIC in the USA. The author of these notes was also invited and had the honour to represent St.Petersburg State University (SPbSU) and to describe student education opportunities in the Faculty of Physics. He also presented results from the ALICE experiment at the LHC, and discussed the importance of practical applications of fundamental research in such fields as Hadron Therapy. Contact with schools organized by the SPbSU/ALICE team, was also mentioned. In particular, besides traditional lectures to schoolchildren on discoveries at CERN, direct contact with a Moscow school in the form of a question and answer session via ordinary Skype was reported to be very successful and interesting for the students, and it is intended to repeat this experiment.
Photo 1: One of the working moments at Polytech. Victor Kim (PNPI, Gatchina & SPbSPU)– in the centre, and Mick Storr(CERN, University of Birmingham) – on the right, are opening the meeting. (Photo by G.Feofilov(SPbSU)).
Although lectures were a main feature of the event, the opportunities given by the coffee break and in the round table discussion, to exchange ideas and views on physics education in the Russian Federation, to discuss problems and the ways to overcome them, were very important. Lack of “hands-on” experimental activity was mentioned as a negative factor limiting the experimental knowledge both of school-children and university students. The discussion highlighted the fact that the education of teachers should be the focus of joint efforts, and teachers of physics should be given the highest attention and support from scientists, scientific institutions and the government. As one of the participants put it, the intellectual potential of the country is directly linked to physics.
For several years, Mick Storr and Stanislav Pakulyak have jointly organized and conducted a special programme for Russian physics teachers at CERN with the invaluable help of the Russian particle physics community. A similar programme is also held in Dubna each summer. JINR and its partners should be congratulated for finding support for the participation of more than 30 Russian teachers each year in the CERN programme, with the result that, in the last 5 years, almost 200 have benefited from this visit to CERN.
Photo 2. Stanislav Pakulyak (JINR), Mick Storr(CERN, University of Birmingham) and Victor Kim (PNPI, Gatchina & SPbSPU) are discussing the new proposal to open participation in the CERN Russian teacher programme to Russian-speaking teachers from former Soviet Union republics (Photo by G.Feofilov(SPbSU)).
It is hoped that as well as repeating the St Petersburg event for a wider audience in future years, the possibility of initiating similar events in other regions will be examined. Another immediate practical outcome is a new proposal to extend participation in the existing CERN programme to Russian-speaking teachers from former Soviet Union republics made possible by the generous involvement of CNIR in funding Russian Federation teachers.
G.Feofilov is Head of Laboratory of Ultra-High Energy Physics, SPbSU, Saint-Petersburg/ALICE