College physics class goes on field trip that really ‘matters’


Courtesy of Zach Armstrong

Members of the College Physics class pose for a picture in front of a science lab at Colorado State University.

Monte Finley, Staff Writer

Last Saturday, the College Physics class at Greeley West, alongside others around the state, traveled to Colorado State University for a masterclass on MINERvA. The class focused on the neutrino, an elementary particle with no charge and virtually no mass.  It is one of the last aspects of particle physics we have yet to fully understand that can be studied with our current technology.

“Physics, to me, is a very cool subject,” senior Nathan Cerda said. “Having the opportunity to learn more in-depth from actual physicists in the field was a privilege.”

The first half of the day started with an explanation of what the students were to look for and a Q&A with Assistant Professor Dr. Josh Berger, an expert on particle physics at CSU. Students learned about the Standard Model, a sort of periodic table for the inner workings of an atom, and briefly talked about dark matter. “It gives you a feeling of excitement to figure out how things work in the universe by exploring the unknown,” said Cerda.

After lunch, the students talked with Dr. Tom Junk, a physicist working at FermiLab and a key member in DUNE, the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. “We’re interested in the properties of neutrinos and antineutrinos,” Junk said.  “We believe we may discover why we have so much more matter than antimatter in the universe if we understand them better.”

Learning firsthand from the experts presents not only an opportunity for the student to learn, but for the experts to spur enthusiasm in them. “You guys are the future physicists working on this,” Junk shared with the audience. “We want you as excited about all of this as we are so that maybe you’ll come in one day and help us figure out what’s going on.”

After the class ended, students got a chance to engage with CSU’s Little Shop of Physics, and participated in a competition of launching Squishmallows.  Stuffed animals were squished into a wonky tube filled with air.  Then, students jumped on the tube to launch the animals.  The West team won. 

It was quite an engaging way to learn about physics.  “I brought us here because I thought it would be a fun way to show the class what it’s like to be a real scientist,” physics teacher Mr. Zach Armstrong said.