Summer Programs Faculty Focus: About Particle Physics with Dr. Brokk Toggerson

    Posted by Lily Cigale on Feb 6, 2016 10:00:00 AM

    In UMass Amherst, 2016, Lab, Physics

    Dr. Brokk Toggerson is a lecturer in the Physics Department here at UMass. He grew up outside of Atlanta and as young "Science Nerd" (his words, not mine), he attended a summer program at the University of Arizona and got interested in Astronomy. Because of his interest, he decided to get his undergraduate degree at University of Arizona. However, when he got there and took stellar astrophysics and hated it, he realized that particle physics was his true passion and talent. Dr. Toggerson moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work on his PhD and to work at the CERN laboratory, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. cloud.jpeg

    Dr. Toggerson's summer program, "Particle Physics", is based on a program developed at CERN, where the Higgs boson discovery was made. If you are interested in physics and/or the collection and interpretation of data, this is definitely the program for you! Students in the "Particle Physics" summer program will get a chance to analyze real data collected at CERN. By looking through this data, students will gain a better understanding of what data is and how to use and interpret it. etoggerson.jpg

    I met with Dr. Toggerson during his lunch break and he told me (between bites of stew) why he thinks that science education is so important. "As the world becomes more science-based," he said, "all fields become more based upon data. Particle physics is right on the edge of that, it uses the most data of any scientific body." Dr. Toggerson explained that understanding and using data are skills that students can use in any discipline they pursue and even in their everyday lives. He spoke with frustration about inaccurate charts and data published in newspapers and online. "Students need to learn to ask questions," he told me passionately. "They need to stop and think: how well does this person reporting know these numbers? What's the quality of this data? Can I actually draw conclusions?"

    High school students who complete this summer pre-college program will know how to read any data, charts, or plots they may come across and will also learn how to make their own. On top of that, students will learn about the Higgs particle and about how we can use particle physics to understand the vast universe that we're all just floating around in. 

    Dr. Brokk Toggerson now spends the majority of his time on  implementing research-based active-learning techniques in science classrooms. He is currently working on reforming two introductory physics courses at UMass, making them better suit the needs of the students who will be taking them. Dr. Toggerson is passionate about science education and is incredibly excited to meet bright high school students and work with them to help build their science, research, and data-analysis skills. 

    For more information about our wide variety of pre-college offerings, check out