It was an early start when 12 Excelsior Year 7-9 students set off with Miss March and Mr Gilbert to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory just outside Oxford. The laboratory is a centre for scientific research used by UK and International universities to carry out particle research. We were excited for what the day had in store. When we arrived at the facility, after signing in we were assigned to groups mixed the 4 other schools in attendance. After a short lecture explaining the facilities and what research was happening the groups left on their tours. Group 1 consisting of the Year 7 and 8 students and Miss March went to the laser lab, where we learnt about how the Vulcan and other laser are used to discover more about particles. The laser had just fired and so we had to stay behind the screen in the laser room, although we could enter the target room as the laser was contained within a vacuum. Group 2 went to Isis, the neutron and muon lab where they learnt about the work done in the labs, as well as getting to view instruments and meet engineers and material scientists.
Although we were expecting a day of physics it was fantastic to see how much the work done at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory links in with our specialism of health, care and medical science. As working on a cellular and sub cellular level requires the techniques used to be employed in the research. As well as in the development of new materials which are used in medical treatment.
Following the tours, the groups came back together to carry out their own research into wind turbines to ascertain the ways that the researchers have to work and how they test hypotheses. Following a quick lunch, we were treated to a talk from a materials engineer, who asked the group to always question their assumptions. Students were shown items and asked what they were made of, these views were then challenged as they completed a series of simple experiments to disprove their assumptions. An added interest was that the materials shown were actually part of the particle accelerator in the site nextdoor. We had a fascinating time and look forward to going back with our sixth form students for their particle physics masterclass next year.
- Miss March