PQI Quantum Day 2017
PQI Quantum Day 2017
Quantum Day 2017 for Taylor Allderdice High School Students
PQI organized its first Quantum Day this past Thursday, April 6, 2017 for the students of Taylor Allderdice High School; a day full of activities, talks, lab tours, and of course pizza. About 15 students, mostly juniors and seniors, from Dr. Janet Waldeck's physics classes arrived early that day at the O'Hara Student Center, where they were greeted by PQI Director Jeremy Levy.
In a few chosen and simple words, Levy introduced quantum mechanics and its bizarre phenomena, and the many challenges they pose to physicists and engineers. He encouraged the students to be curious and ask a lot of questions about what they are seeing or hearing, whether in a talk or in the labs that they will be visiting.
The first activity was a panel discussion, led by Vincent Sokalski, Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering of CMU, Michael Hatridge, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Pitt, and Olivia Lanes, a graduate student in Hatridge's lab. The panelists introduced themselves and talked a little about their research, and the students asked several questions that were answered both in seriousness and with humor.
During that hour, panelists and students brought up quantum computing, superconductors, star trek-style teleportation, and even philosophy of physics. They also discussed the overall experience, from the overlap between physics and engineering, to the importance of undergraduate research, to how to choose a graduate advisor. The panel session was lively and often quite funny.
The panel was followed by mini-talks, three short presentations that introduced crystallography, thermoelectric materials (materials that transform heat into electricity), and quantum cryptography. The speakers had made a tremendous and successful effort to present their topics in ways that were interesting and accessible to high school students, who oohed and aahed at the right times, asked or answered questions, and laughed at nerdy jokes! Similarly, two demonstrations, one on optics and the other on quantum chemistry, captivated the students and prompted many questions.
Finally, tours of labs in the Physics, Engineering, and Chemistry departments concluded the day, giving a broad overview of the different aspects and applications of quantum mechanics from building a quantum computer from Majorana Fermions to chiral-induced spin selectivity in biological molecules. Students and faculty alike had a good time learning or talking about research in quantum science and engineering, and through Quantum Day 2017--the first of hopefully many more--PQI has certainly fulfilled its mission statement of helping unify and promote quantum science and engineering to high school students in Pittsburgh.