Academic and Summer 2017 outreach by graduate students: Physics Experiments for High-School Students during the Penn Summer Science Academy

August 2017

Graduate Student Sarah Friedensen ran a lab group for the Penn Summer Science Academy’s program in Experimental Physics Research in which explored a range of topics (standing waves on violin strings, Chaldni plates, and approximate spheres (water balloons) using a high-speed camera to film each experiment, as well as a strobe light for the water balloon). Sarah and the high school students also used the high-speed camera to film collisions between two-by-fours, objects hitting both water and ooblek, and the bursting of the water balloon and a balloon filled with ooblek. Sarah helped guide the group with respect to what was achievable in the time frame of one week, and the students worked together to develop the specific phenomena they wanted to investigate (the group theme was “film analysis”). The students ranged from sophomore to senior in high school and were in a group of four. By the end of the session, through their own research, students had connected the results of their experiments to models of the hydrogen atom.



Graduate student Priyanka Thiruraman ran GEMS, a summer school program at SEAS for middle school girls, helping out with nanotechnology sessions from July 24 to July 28, 2017. Priyanka ran two sessions on:

  1. DNA extraction from strawberries, where she also touched upon the concept of DNA sequencing and nanopores (our lab’s research), and
  2. Nanotechnology in basic physics. Experiments included polymer synthesis, non-Newtonian liquids, lasers/ optics, polarizers, kinetic sand etc. Students were also given a tour of the Singh center to see the fabrication facilities, scanning microscopes and most importantly “the microscope that occupies an entire room” aka TEM.

See the program and a video.


Graduate student Paul Masih Das was in charge until May 2017 of a volunteer group called Moelis Access Science Physics. A team of about 10-12 undergrads and Paul would take equipment from the physics department (with the help of Bill Berner) every week and go to various public schools in West Philly (Sayre HS, West Philly HS, Comegys MS), where they performed introductory physics experiments with the students. Paul has also given 1-2 hour outreach talks on DNA sequencing and our lab’s research in various location including the Comegys MS, Huey MS, and the Franklin Institute. For the past two summers, Paul helped with the Franklin Institute’s Summer Camp. A few other physics grad students and Paul went to the Franklin Institute every other week and performed an educational science activity with middle school children (building hovercrafts, learning about constellations, making circuits, etc.)