CENTER FOR HIGH RESOLUTION NEUTRON SCATTERING-SPONSORED SUMMER SCHOOL
The NCNR has been very active in outreach activities over a broad spectrum of educational levels. This is an important component of the overall facility’s program, and NCNR staff reported that the researchers at the NCNR are enthusiastically engaged in it. The flagship outreach program is the highly oversubscribed Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS)-sponsored summer school for graduate students and young scientists. The emphasis of the school varies from year-to-year with content ranging from elastic scattering to inelastic scattering to imaging. The focus on neutron imaging, neutron spectroscopy, neutron reflectometry, and SANS at this school is more intense than it is at the National School on Neutron and X-ray Scattering offered each year by the Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The CHNRS school provides students with significant hands-on time with instrumentation, and in several cases, has enabled them to later gain access to NCNR facilities through the standard proposal mechanism. While the school has a strong record of engaging, educating, and exciting students about the possibility of using neutrons in their own research, it has also been used more recently to reach out to communities—for example, the geosciences community—whose members may be unaware of what neutrons could bring to their research. Consequently, this school is expanding the pool of possible neutron users, which benefits the entire neutron community. Participation in the CHRNS summer school is capped at 35 persons, comprising graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior faculty.1 The return rate on this school— that is, the number of students who actually return to perform experiments, is quite high, of order 75 percent—a testament to the school’s effectiveness.
1 NIST Center for Neutron Research, undated, “Summer School on the Fundamentals of Neutron Scattering,” https://www.ncnr.nist.gov/summerschool/ss17/index.html, accessed August 29, 2018.
OTHER EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
In addition to the summer school, outreach activities include a component of the NIST Summer Institute for middle-school science teachers at CHRNS. The goals are (1) to provide them with enough information about neutrons and neutron experiments that they will be able to incorporate neutron science into their curriculum and (2) to allow them to experience the excitement of participation in a real experiment, an excitement that they can pass on to their students, thus multiplying the impact of the summer school. Middle schoolers are at the age when exposure to new ideas can have its greatest impact, and exposure to the mysteries of neutrons can broaden their horizons and possibly lead them to a career in science.
The NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, is geared toward undergraduate students who spend time at the NCNR engaged in research with an NCNR advisor. Hosted at CHRNS, it has seen over 160 students take advantage of the program with approximately 70 percent of the attendees advancing on to graduate school.
NCNR staff also engage with the community through school demonstrations and presentations and the Adopt-a-School and Adventures in Sciences programs. These activities are also augmented by tours of the facility for students and professional groups, lectures by the staff at universities, and participation in national and international conferences. These latter activities are particularly important because they provide a venue for the staff to interact one-to-one with professional scientists and possibly convince them to pursue neutron research.