Explorations in Science (10.20.2022)

On Thursday, October 20th we hosted a special field trip, titled “Explorations in Science”. On this day, two 11th grade classes came in to learn more about physics: Ms. Tongcharoensirikul’s AP chemistry class from Quincy High School and Ms. Cicero’s AP Biology class from Boston Collegiate Charter School.

After a quick introduction to Northeastern and the Center for STEM Education, we opened the floor to Professor Max Bi, Assistant Professor of Physics at NEU’s College of Science, with expertise in biophysics. Max Bi gave a very interesting presentation on the physics of active matter: each individual object in a mass is active and reacts to the environment, be it individual starlings in a swarm, emperor penguins huddling, or humans in a mosh pit. The students then did an activity where they learned about random walk and Brownian motion through a coin flipping activity: flip a coin, heads or tails. Heads = +1, Tails = -1. X axis = penny flip, y axis = nickel flip, then graph it. The “random walk” statistically should stay around the middle but actually goes all over the place.

Next we heard from Professor Adrian Feiguin, Associate Professor in Physics with an expertise in quantum-scale physics. He led us through a Quantum Mechanics 101 short course – wrapping our heads around a very complex topic, as quantum mechanics is when the classical physical model breaks down at the extremes: high/low temperature or pressure, extremely small or large things, or high speeds (close to speed of light). We learned about Quantum states, uncertainty principle, and the Shroedinger’s cat experiment: is it alive, dead, or both? We then learned that there are actually multiple interpretations – or schools of thought – of quantum mechanics, with Professor Feiguin leading us through the Copenhagen interpretation, attributed to Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.

During lunch, our NEU student volunteers hosted a college 101 panel, in which visiting students could ask any questions about college, engineering, science, etc. Thank you to our panelists: Zandria Hughes (Indust.Eng.‘23), Maya Rabow (Beh. Neurosci. ‘23), Erika Christensen (Civ.Eng. ’25), Emina Hurtic (BioEng. ‘27), and Olivia Minutillo (Biophysics ‘27)! Finally, we wrapped up the day with an informal campus tour, visiting various interesting sites on campus.

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