By Sebastian Kuhn

On Saturday, June 8, 2024, the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, VA, opened its doors for an estimated 9,000 visitors, for its first Open House in six years. Physicists from Old Dominion University (ODU) took part in the event with hands-on activities for attendees to take part in. Families and individuals from all over Hampton Roads were able to experience the scientific and engineering marvels housed at the lab close-up and personal, with guided tours of the accelerator, experimental halls, and engineering facilities. Among many other vistas accessible to the public, a tent near the experimental Hall C featured exhibits and demonstrations by faculty and students from local universities and ODU.

Dr. Weinstein, Professor of Physics at ODU, demonstrates how the (yellow) diffraction glasses allow these family members to see the light spectrum emitted by different elements.

The Department of Physics at ODU is one of the largest collaborators with Jefferson Lab, boasting close to 20 faculty members and at least as many postdoctoral researchers and graduate students doing research at the Jefferson Lab. ODU’s Nuclear Theory faculty have joint appointments with the lab and constitute the majority of the Jefferson Lab Theory group. ODU’s experimental Nuclear/Particle Physics group was and remains instrumental in defining the science and building the detectors, both for the initial years of experiments at the Lab and then again after its electron beam energy was doubled to 12 GeV in the 2010’s, leading experiments in all four experimental Halls.

The ODU Center for Accelerator Science is home to several more faculty members, postdocs and students working on the next great developments in accelerators at the Lab. Both the present Director of Jefferson Lab, Stuart Henderson, and the Associate Director for Accelerators, Andrei Seryi, hold prestigious faculty appointments as “Governor’s Distinguished CEBAF Professors” at ODU. Beyond the department of Physics, there are also close collaborations between Jefferson Lab and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the School of Data Science at ODU.

Given this background, it should be no surprise that ODU was very well represented in the “University Tent” at the Open House. Six faculty members and students volunteered for the event to explain to the hundreds of visitors passing by our station how we build particle detectors (and how they work), how one can identify chemical elements by looking at the spectrum of light they emit (with special diffraction glasses), and how one can build a simple “thermodynamic motor” using bubbly soda and chocolate chips. 

It was wonderful to be able to connect and talk to students and people of all ages in the community about the research ODU faculty, students and postdocs get to do in collaboration with Jefferson Lab. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another six years for the next Open House and a chance to observe the place where a lot of ODU research is going on.

For more information about the Open House at Jefferson Lab click here.

Also, to see additional photos of the fun-filled STEM event at Jefferson Lab click here.


[Cover photo caption: Drs. Hyde and Bültmann, Professors of Physics at ODU, explain the workings of various particle detectors (scintillators and drift chambers) to some young future scientists”.]