Galbiatia, Amaduzzi and FracassiPrinceton physicist Cristiano Galbiati works in a laboratory with Italian high school students Francesca Amaduzzi and Francesco Fracassi, who are part of program that brought 20 students to Princeton from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

photo: Denise Applewhite



Physics program promotes science across borders

by Steven Schultz
High school students from Italy are studying physics at Princeton University this summer as part of a program designed to improve cross-cultural ties and promote interest in math and science.

The 20 students are visiting from several schools in the Abruzzo region of Italy, home of Italy's Gran Sasso National Laboratory, where Princeton physicists are participating in a major international particle physics experiment.

"Every year we've taken three or four Princeton physics students to Italy to work with us in the lab. They love it there, so we had the idea to bring some students from Italy to the United States," said Frank Calaprice, a professor of physics who leads Princeton's involvement in the Gran Sasso experiment.

The visiting students are taking short courses given in Italian by three Princeton scientists and a former Princeton scientist who now works at the Gran Sasso lab. They also spend one afternoon a week conducting laboratory experiments that are much the same as those done by Princeton freshmen. The program runs through Friday, Aug. 20.

"We are trying to get them involved hands-on in the lab and also encourage problem-solving in the course work," Cristiano Galbiati, an assistant professor of physics who led the first week of the program. "This is something they have not been exposed to at this level. They are picking it up very fast."

In their first lab, the students measured the speed of sound in various gasses and used their measurements to identify the gasses. "This has been a very interesting experiment," said Alessio Ferrari, who is in his final year of high school. "We can see with our eyes what we have studied only in books."

"It's beautiful to work in the lab. It is exciting," added fellow student Paola Saccomandi.

In addition to the classroom and lab work, the students receive English language instruction and go sightseeing in the Princeton area. They also will hear four talks by Italian scientists with ties to Princeton University or the Institute for Advanced Study. The program's organizers hope that the combination of experiences will help the students, who come from an area with high unemployment and limited economic opportunities, to build more successful careers.

"The idea is not to show them everything about physics," said Professor of Physics Chiara Nappi, who will lead one week of the program. "They have all their lives to learn physics. I want this to be an eye-opening experience for them -- for them to see opportunities they had no idea existed before." Perhaps, said Nappi, the students will consider the possibility of applying to college in the United States or will aim for a Ph.D. program after college.

The student visits are supported by the Italian National Intitute of Nuclear Physics as well as the Italian Embassy in Washington and three local groups: the Princeton-Pettoranello Foundation, Dorothea's House and the Princeton Italian-American Sportsmen Club.


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