Nazareth Academy High School Students Gain Physics Research Experience at Illinois Tech

Luis Martinez adjusts current while Molly Herr records the resistance of a silver thin film vs. temperature in a liquid nitrogen dewar.

In June, two high school students from Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, Illinois, participated in a two-week intensive physics research experience at Illinois Tech through Nazareth’s BOOST Internship Program for rising seniors.

The high school students, Luis Martinez and Molly Herr, worked alongside graduate and undergraduate physics students in the research group of John Zasadzinski, Paul and Suzi Schutt Endowed Chair of Science and professor of physics.

Martinez and Herr performed measurements of electrical resistance of various materials down to low temperatures and learned about superconductivity. In addition to cryogenic techniques with liquid nitrogen, the students learned thin-film vapor deposition, scanning electron microscopy, thermocouples, breadboard circuits, and graphical data analysis. They also built and successfully tested a sample holder for measurements of electrical resistance vs. temperature down to 77K. The holder will now be used in advanced physics laboratory courses.

“The students learned about the real world of experimental research, including how things can go wrong and need to be re-designed,” said Zasadzinski. “These outreach initiatives to high schools are part of the mission of the College of Science to disseminate research knowledge generated at IIT to the greater Chicago area. The key is to have the students feel like they’ve made a real contribution.”